Pointing One’s Finger in Tashahhud in the Light of Fiqh and Ḥadīth
Written in Urdu by: Mufti Faizanul Mustafa Qadri
Translated by: Omair Shariff
To recite the tashahhud (at-taḥīyyāt) when sitting in the prayer is wājib, and to point the index finger of the right hand while reciting the shahada is a Sunna. The latter-era scholars of the Ḥanafi School have explained the method of pointing to be that one lifts his finger during the worlds “lā ilāha” and drops the finger at the words “illallāh” so that the lifting corresponds to the negation (there is no god) of the kalima and the dropping corresponds with the affirmation (except Allah). Some people have objected to this method saying that it is not established from any Ḥadīth. They say that one must lift his finger from the very beginning of the tashahhud and should be kept up for the whole duration, or that it should be kept moving, etc. However, keeping the finger lifted for the entirety of the tashahhud is not established from any narration. We will try to clarify the Ḥanafi position in the light of fiqh and Ḥadīth. First, we will explicitly mention the Ḥanafi position, then we will clarify this position in the light of Ḥadīth.
There are actually two positions mentioned in the Ḥanafi school 1) there is no indication of the finger 2) there is indication. Some fiqh works like “Wulūwul Jīyyah” and “Tajnīs” mention the first position. Other works like “Badā’i`”, “Sharḥ Munya”, “Mi`rāj”, “Nihāya”, “Qahistāni”, “Nahr”, “Ẓahīriyya”, “Sharḥ Nuqāya”, and others mention the second position. Since these are all early works, some latter-era Ḥanafi scholars have mentioned both positions. Imam Kamāluddīn ibn Hummām extracts the position of the leaders of the school through narration and logic in his work “Fatḥ-ul-Qadīr”, and `Allāmah Sayyid ibn `Abidīn Shāmi has written a monogram establishing the second position titled “Raf`-ut-Taraddud fi `Adq-il-Aṣābi` `indat-Tashahhud”, which he has quoted from in his world famous commentaries of “ad-Durr ul-Mukhtār” and “al-Baḥr ur-Rā’iq”. Without getting into too much detail, we will focus on this issue to see when and how the indication should be done.
It is written in the famous work of Ḥanafi fiqh “Nūr-ul-Īḍāḥ”:
وقرأ تشهد ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه وأشار بالمسبحة في الشهادة يرفعها عند النفي ويعضها عند الإثبات
And one recites the tashahhud of `Abdullāh ibn Mas’ūd and points with his index finger during the shahāda. He lifts it during the negation and lowers it during the affirmation. (Nūr-ul-Īḍāḥ, Kitāb-us-Ṣalāh, Bāb Kayfiyya Tarkīb-is-Ṣalāh)
It is written in “Fatāwa Hindiyya”:
وإذا انتهى الى قوله أشهد أن لا إله إلّا الله يشير بالمسبحة
And when one finishes [the tashahhud] with his statement “Ashhadu al-Lā ilāha illallāh”, he points with his finger. (Fatāwa `Ālamgiri, Vol. 1 pg. 75, Dār ul Kitāb Deoband)
It is written in “Munyat-ul-Muṣalli”:
ويشير بالسبابة إذا انتهى الى الشهادتين وقال في الواقعات لا يشير فإن أشار يقعد الخنصر والبنصر ويلحق الوسطى بالإبهام
And one indicates with the index finger when he reaches the two shahadas. The author of “al-Waqi`at” says, ‘One does not indicate, but if one does, then he bends the pinky and ring finger and connects the middle finger to the thumb. (Munyat-ul-Muṣalli, pg. 328, al-Majlis ul-Barkāt, al-Jāmi`at ul-Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur)
Proofs from Ḥadīth
Now we will try to follow the books of Ḥadīth using the following narrations.
Narrations from our Master `Abdullāh ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما
- Imam Abu `isa at-Tirmidhi in his famous collection has made a chapter heading under the Book of Prayer titled “Bāb ma ja’ fi’l Ishārah” (Chapter on What Came Regarding the Indication). Under this chapter, he cites the following Ḥadīth from `Abdullāh ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما:
ان النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم كان إذا جلس في الصلاة وضع يده اليمنى ركبته ورفع أصبعه التي تلي الإبهام يدعو بها ويده اليسرى على ركبته باسطها عليه
When the Messenger ﷺ used to sit in the prayer, he would place his right hand on his right knee and raise the finger that is next to the thumb, making du`ā’. He would place his left hand on his left knee and spread it out over the thigh. (Jami` ut-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1 pg. 171, al-Majlis ul-Barkāt, al-Jāmi`at ul-Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur)
- The narration from Hazrat `Abdullāh ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما in “Muslim” is as follows:
ان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا قعد في التشهّد وضع يده اليسرى على ركبته اليسرى ووضع يده اليمنى على ركبته اليمنى وعقد ثلاثا وخمسين وأشار بالسبابة
When the Messenger ﷺ sat in tashahhud, he would place his left hand on his left knee. He would place his right hand on his right knee, and, making a sign of fifty-three, would point with his index finger. (A “sign of fifty-three” is to join the pinky and ring finger to the palm and to connect the middle finger to the thumb)
- Another narration in the same work is:
عن علي بن عبد الرحمن المُعاوي أنه قال رآني عبد الله بن عمر وأنا أعبث بالحصى في الصلاة فلما انصرف نهاني وقال إصنع كما كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يصنع فقلت وكيف كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يصنع؟ فقال كان إذا جلس في الصلاة وضع كفه اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى وقبض أصابعه كلها وأشار بأصبعه التي تلي الإبهام ووضع كفه اليسرى على فخذه اليسرى
It is narrated from Ali ibn Abdurrahman al-Mu`awi that he said, “`Abdullāh ibn Umar saw me while I was playing with some stones during the prayer, so when he finished, he forbade me to do so and said, ‘Do as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did.’ I asked, ‘And how did the Messenger of Allah ﷺ do [this]?’ He replied, ‘When he would sit in the prayer, he would place is right hand on his right thigh, clench all of his fingers, and point with his finger that is next to the thumb. He would place his left hand on his left thigh. (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Masājid wa Mawadi`-is-Ṣalāh, Bāb Sifat-il-Julus fi’s Ṣalāh wa Kayfiyyat wad`-il-Yadayni `ala’l Fakhidhayn, Vol. 1, pg. 216, al-Majlis ul-Barkāt, al-Jāmi`at ul-Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur)
Narrations from Hazrat `Abdullāh ibn Zubayr رضي الله عنهما
- The narration from Hazrat `Abdullāh ibn Zubayr رضي الله عنهما in “Muslim” is as follows:
ووضع يده اليسرى على ركبته اليسرى ووضع يده اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى وأشار بأصبعه
And he would place his left hand on his left knee and his right hand on his right thigh and point with his finger.
- In the same work, we find the same narration in more detail from another chain of transmission:
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا قعد يدعو وضع يده اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى ويده اليسرى على فخذه اليسرى وأشار بأصبعه السبابة ووضع إبهامه على أصبعه الوسطى ويلقم كفه اليسرى ركبته
When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to sit to make du`ā’’ [in the prayer], he would place his right hand on his right thigh and his left hand on his left thigh, and he would point with his index finger, and he would place his thumb on his middle finger, and he would clamp his left palm to his knee. (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Masājid wa Mawāḍi`-is-Ṣalāh, Bāb Ṣifat-il-Julūs fi’s Ṣalāh wa Kayfiyyat waḍ`-il-Yadayni `ala’l Fakhidhayn, Vol. 1, pg. 216, al-Majlis ul-Barkāt, al-Jāmi`at ul-Ashrafiyya, Mubarakpur)
- The narration of `Abdullāh ibn Zubayr رضي الله عنهما in “Sunan Nasa’i” is found in the chapter “Bāb-ul-Ishārah bi’l Aṣba` fi’t Tashahhud il-Awwal” as follows:
يضع يديه على ركبتيه وأشار بأصبعه
He would place his hands on his knees and point with his finger. (Sunan Nasa’i, Vol. 1, pg. 130)
- His narration in “Sunan Abi Dawūd” is found in the chapter “Bāb-ul-Ishārah fi’t Tashahhud” as follows:
ان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يشير بأصبعه إذا دعاه ولا يحركها
When the Messenger ﷺ used to make du`ā’’, he would point with his finger, and he did not shake it.
Narrations from Hazrat Numayr Khuzā`i
- A narration from Hazrat Numayr Khuzā`i in “Sunan ibn Mājah” is cited under the chapter “Bāb-ul-Ishārah fi’t Tashahhud” as follows:
رأيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم واضعا يده اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى في الصلاة ويشير بأصبعه
I saw the Messenger ﷺ placing his right hand on his right thigh in the prayer and pointing with his finger.
- The narration in “Sunan Abi Dawūd” is as follows:
رأيت النبي صلى الله علِه وسلام واضعا ذراعه اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى رافعا أصبعه السبابة قد حنّاها شيئا
I saw the Messenger ﷺ placing his right forearm on his right thigh, raising his index finger, and curving it a little. (Sunan Abi Dawūd, Vol. 1, pg. 142)
A Narration from Hazrat Wā’il ibn Ḥujr
- A narration from Hazrat Wā’il ibn Ḥujr is in “Sunan ibn Mājah” as follows:
رأيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قد حلق الإبهام والوسطى ورفع التي تليهما يدعو بها في التشهّد
I saw the Messenger ﷺ making a circle with the thumb and middle finger, and raising the one close to them, making du`ā’’ with it during the tashahhud. (Sunan ibn Mājah, pg. 65)
A Narration from Hazrat Abu Ḥumayd Sā`idi
- A narration from Hazrat Abu Ḥumayd Sā`idi is cited in “Muṣannaf `Abdur Razzāq” as follows:
ان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان إذا جلس في الصلاة في الركعتين الاوليين نصب قدمه اليمنى وافترش اليسرى وأشار بأصبعه التي تلي الإبهام إلخ
When the Messenger ﷺ would sit during the prayer in the first two rak`ats, he would stand his right foot up vertically, and he would lay his left foot out horizontally, and he would point with his finger that was next to the thumb (Muṣannaf `Abdur Razzāq, Bāb-ul-Iq`ā’ fi’ṣ Ṣalāh, Ḥadīth no. 3046)
Summation of the Aḥādīth
If we consider all of these aḥādīth together, some points become clear.
- All of the aḥādīth prove that there is indication with the finger when sitting in the prayer.
- Some of the aḥādīth show that the indication is done with the right index finger.
- The narrations in “Muslim” from Hazrat `Abdullāh ibn Zubayr and Hazrat Wā’il ibn Ḥujr رضي الله عنهم show that a ring should be made with the middle finger and the thumb.
- It is not known from most of the narrations if the indication was done before or after placing the hand on the thigh. This is because the “واو” in the statement “وضع يده اليمنى على ركبته اليمنى و أشار بأصبعه” is used only for aggregation or addition and does not give credence to any sequence or order in the actions as per the understanding of the scholars of language and principle issues. However, the narration present in “Nasā’i” does give credence to sequence because the wording is “وضع يديه على ركبتيه ثم أشار بأصبعه”. The word “ثم” is used to show the occurrence of an action after a span of time. Therefore, one can understand this Ḥadīth to mean that he placed his hands on knees, and then after some time he pointed with his finger. It is established from the understanding that the indication is not done from the very beginning of the tashahhud.
- The question now is that when after placing the hands on the thighs is the indication to be done? We do not get any specific instructions on this point from any of the mentioned aḥādīth; therefore, we do not find any position narrated from the leaders of the school on this point. However, Imām Ḥalwāni, one of the latter-era scholars, has specified this point using juristic reasoning (qiyās), saying that one should lift the finger up during the affirmation portion of the shahada and place it back down during the negation portion so that the heart along with the limbs can jointly negate divinity for everything and everyone and affirm it only for Allah.
- Imām ibn Hummām tries to explain this sequence in another way. The words in the narration from “Muslim”, “وضع كفه اليمنى على فخذه اليمنى” clearly show that the right palm is placed on the right thigh and that the indication is to be done with the fingers in a circle. With a little thought, one can see that making the fingers into a circle while the palm lies flat on the thigh is not possible. In order to join the thumb with the middle finger and make a circle, the palm must lift up from the thigh. This is why all of the narrations that do not mention a sequence of actions will all still give credence to laying the hand flat on the thigh and then making the fingers into a circle for the indication. Therefore, Imām ibn Hummām writes in his work “Fatḥ-ul-Qadīr”:
و لا شك أنّ وضع الكفّ و قبض الأصابع لا يتحقق فالمراد و الله اعلم وضع الكفّ ثمّ قبض الأصابع بعد ذلك عند الإشارة و هو المروي عن محمد في كيفية الإشارة قال: يقبض خنصره و التي تليها و يلحق الوسطى و الإبهام و يقيم المسبحة و كذا عن أبي يوسف رحمه الله في الأمالي و هذا فرع تصحيح الإشارة، و عن كثير من المشايخ لا يشير اصلا و هو خلاف الدراية و الرواية، فعن محمد أنّ ما ذكرناه في كيفية الإشارة مما نقلناه قول أبي حنيفة رضي الله عنه و يكره أن يشير بمسبحتيه و عن الحلواني يقيم الأصبع عند لا إله و يضعها عند إلّا الله ليكون الرفع للنفي و الوضع للإثبات
There is no doubt that the placing of the palm and curling of the fingers cannot happen [at the same time]. Therefore, the meaning, and Allah knows best, is that [first] the placing of the hands [is done], then the curling of the fingers [is done] after that at the time of the indication. [This is the position] narrated from Imām Muḥammad. He said, “One curls his pinky and the finger next to it, and one makes a circle with the middle finger and the thumb and raises the index finger”. This position was similarly narrated from Abu Yūsuf, Allah have mercy on him, in the work “Al-Amāli”. This is the subsidiary issue of the rectification of the indication [of tashahhud]. It is narrated from many authorities that one does not indicate at all, but this understanding opposes both knowledge and narration. Imām Muḥammad said, “What we have mentioned concerning the method of indication is what we have narrated from Imām Abu Ḥanīfa”. It is disliked to perform the indication with the index fingers of both the hands. Imām Ḥalwāni says that one raises the finger when reciting “lā ilāha” and lowers it at “illallāh” so that the raising can correspond to the negation and the lowering to the affirmation. (Fatḥ-ul-Qadīr, Vol. 1, pg. 321)
Indicating with the finger during the shahada should be done. Imām Ḥalwāni’s explanation is strengthened by the following narration that shows that the purpose of the indication is to show Allah’s oneness. Imām Bayhaqi mentions this narration as follows:
عَنْ أَبِي الْقَاسِمِ مِقْسَمٍ مَوْلَى عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ نَوْفَلٍ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنِي رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ قَالَ: صَلَّيْتُ فِي مَسْجِدِ بَنِي غِفَارٍ فَذَكَرَ جُلُوسَهُ قَالَ: ” وَوَضَعْتُ يَدِي الْيُسْرَى عَلَى فَخِذِي الْيُسْرَى، وَوَضَعْتُ يَدِي الْيُمْنَى عَلَى فَخِذِي الْيُمْنَى، وَنَصَبْتُ أُصْبُعِي السَّبَابَةَ قَالَ: فَرَآنِي خُفَافُ بْنُ إِيمَاءِ بْنِ رَحَضَةَ الْغِفَارِيُّ وَكَانَتْ لَهُ صُحْبَةٌ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَأَنَا أَصْنَعُ ذَلِكَ قَالَ: فَلَمَّا انْصَرَفْتُ مِنْ صَلَاتِي قَالَ لِي: لِمَ نَصَبْتَ إِصْبَعِكَ هَكَذَا؟ قَالَ: فَقُلْتُ لَهُ: رَأَيْتُ النَّاسَ يَصْنَعُونَ ذَلِكَ قَالَ: فَإِنَّكَ قَدْ أَصَبْتَ، إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ ” إِذَا صَلَّى يَصْنَعُ ذَلِكَ ” وَكَانَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ يَقُولُونَ: ” إِنَّمَا يَصْنَعُ هَذَا مُحَمَّدٌ بِأُصْبُعِهِ لِيَسْحَرَ، وَكَذَبُوا ” إِنَّمَا كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصْنَعُ ذَلِكَ؛ لِمَا يُوَحِّدُ بِهَا رَبَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى “
Abu’l Qāsim Muqsim, the freed slave of `Abdullāh ibn Ḥārith ibn Nawfal, says that someone from Medina told him, “Once I prayed in the masjid of Banu Ghifār, and when I sat I placed my right hand on my right thigh and my left hand on my left thigh and pointed with my index finger. Hazrat Khufāf ibn Aymā’ Ghifāri, a Ṣaḥābi, saw me do this, so after finishing the prayer he asked me, ‘Why did you raise your finger?’ I replied, ‘Because I have seen people do the same’. He said, ‘You acted correctly. When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ prayed, he would do the same. The polytheists say he did so to do magic; they lie. The Messenger ﷺ did this to display the oneness of his Lord.’” (As-Sunan ul-Kubrā lil Bayhaqi, Ḥadīth 2793)
Keep in mind that some of the narrations we mentioned have the words “to do du`ā’’”. This du`ā’’ is the tashahhud.
Here it is appropriate to mention some quotes from “ad-Durr ul-Mukhtār” and “Radd-ul-Muḥtār”. “ad-Durr ul-Mukhtār” states:
لٰكنّ المعتمد ما صحّحه الشراح ولا سيّما المتأخّرون كالكمال الحلبي والبنهنسي والباقاني وشيخ الإسلام الجد أنّه يشير لفعله عليه الصلاة والسلام ونسبوه لمحمد والإمام بل في متن درر البحار وشرحه غرر الأذكار المفتى به عندنا أنّه يشير باسطا أصابعه كلّها وفي الشرنبلالية عن البرهان أنّه يشير بمسبحته وحدها يرفعها عند النفي ويضعها عند الإثبات
The relied upon position that many latter-era Ḥanafi scholars upheld, such as Kamāl Ḥalabi, Bahansi, Bāqāni, and others, states that one should perform the indication, as the Messenger of Allah would do so. This is the position of both Imām Muḥammad and Imām Abu Ḥanīfa. The main text of the work “Durar-ul-Biḥār” and its commentary “Ghurar-ul-Adhkār” state that the fatwa position is that one indicates with all of his fingers spread out. “Shurunbulāliyya” gives a narration from “al-Burhān” that one indicates with his index finger only; he lifts it during the negation and lowers it during the affirmation.
`Allāma Sayyid ibn `Ābidīn Shāmi provides the following commentary to this passage:
(بل في متن درر البحار وشرحه الخ) إضراب انتقالي لأنّ في هذا النقل التصريح بأنّ ما صحّحه الشراح هو المفتى به لٰكنّ الصواب إسقاط قوله باسطا أصابعه كلّها فإنّه مخالف ما رأيته في درر البحار وشرحه ونص عبارة درر البحار: ولا تعقد ثلاثة وخمسين ولا تشير والفتوى خلافه. وعبارة شرحه غرر الأفكار: ولا تعقد يا فقيه ثلاثة وخمسين كما عقدها أحمد موافقا للشافعي في أحد أقواله ونحن لا نشير عند التهليل بالسبابة من اليمنى بل نبسط الأصابع، والفتوى أي المفتى به عندنا خلافه أي خلاف عدم الإشارة وهو الإشارة على كيفية عقد ثلاثة وخمسين كما قال به الشافعي وأحمد. وفي المحيط انها سنة يرفعها عند النفي ويضعها عندا الإثبات وهو قول أبي حنيفة ومحمد وكثرت به الأثار والأخبار فالعمل به أولى اه. فهو صريح في أنّ المفتى به هو الإشارة بالمسبحة مع عقد الأصابع على الكيفية المذكورة لا مع بسطها، فإنّه لا إشارة مع البسط عندنا، ولذا قال في المنية المصلي: فإن أشار يعقد الخنصر والبنصر ويلحق الوسطى بالإبهام ويقيم السبابة
These quotes clearly indicate that the fatwa position is what the commentators have clarified, however the correct positon is that the words “with all of his fingers spread out” should be omitted because they actually oppose what I have read in “Durar ul Biḥār”” and its commentary. The text of “Durar-ul-Biḥār” is: ‘and do not make “the sign of fifty-three” (making a circle with the fingers) do not point’. The text of its commentary “Ghurar-ul-Afkār” is: ‘don’t make, oh faqīh, the “sign of fifty-three” (making a circle with the fingers), like Imām Aḥmad in concurrence with Imām Shāfi`i in one of his statements. We do not point during the tahlīl (lā ilāha illallāh) with the right index finger; rather, we spread out all of the fingers.’ The fatwa position, however, is opposite to this statement according to us, meaning it is opposite to the absence of pointing, and this is the pointing done by making “the sign of fifty-three”, as stated by Imām Shāfi`i and Imām Aḥmad. It is written in “al-Muḥīṭ” that this indication is a sunna; one raises [the finger] during the negation and one lowers it during the affirmation, and this is the position of Imām Abu Ḥanīfa and Imām Muḥammad. There are many narrations that mention this, so acting on this is the best course of action.’ It is clear from this that the fatwa position is indication with the index finger while making a circle with the other fingers as per the aforementioned method, not with spreading out the fingers. For indeed, there is no indication with the spreading of the fingers according to us. It is thus stated in “Munyat-ul-Muṣalli”: If one indicates, then he is to bend the pinky and ring fingers and make a circle with the middle finger and thumb and raise the index finger. (Radd-ul-Muḥtār, Vol. 2, pg. 192)
Those who use the narration from ibn Jārūd (فرأيت يحركها يدو) to try to prove that the finger should be constantly shaken or wagged when it is lifted should refer to the narration mentioned in “Sunan Abi Dawūd”, which clearly mentions that the finger would be lifted without any other movement (و لا يحرّكها).