Author: Syaikh Ibn Uthaimin
Q1 : What is a Sutrah?
A : Something used by a person performing Salaah (as a barrier) between himself and one passing in-front-of him.
Q2 : What is its ruling?
A : It is compulsory, and whoever disregards it, has commited a sin. This is based on the saying of the Messenger Muhammad e,: “If any of you wish to perform Salaah, then he must perform it towards a Sutrah (ie:with a Sutrah in front of him) and draw close to it”. [Aboo Daawood and Ibn Maajah..among others]
And his saying: “Do not perform Salaah except that there is a Sutrah in front of you”. (Muslim)
And his saying: “If any of you wish to perform Salaah, then let him place a Sutrah in front of him and draw close to it for indeed (shaytaan) the evil-one passes in front of him”. [Ibn Khuzaymah]
And his saying: “Let any one of you place something similar to (the size of) the rear of a camel’s saddle (in front of him), then perform Salaah”. [Ibn Jaarood]
Q3 : Is it permissible to stay far away from it (the Sutrah)?
A : No! And whoever stays further than three forearms1 length away from it, has sinned and has placed his Salaah in a position to have it spoilt by shaytaan. This is evident from the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) ,: “And let him draw close to it and don’t let shaytaan break his Salaah.” [Ahmad, Aboo Daawood, Ibn Khuzaymah Ibn Hibbaan, Al-Haakim, and others]
And the hadeeth: “And let him draw close to it for indeed shaytaan passes between him and it (the Sutrah)”. [Ibn Hibbaan]
And the hadeeth: “And let him draw close to the Sutrah for indeed shaytaan passes in front of him”. [Ibn Khuzaymah]
And the hadeeth: “There was, between the spot on which the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) performed Salaah and the wall, the distance of the path of one sheep”. [Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim]
And in another hadeeth it states that: “When the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) entered the Ka’bah he put a distance of three forearms between himself and the wall then performed Salaah”. [Al-Bukhaaree]
Q4 : What is the smallest size that the Sutrah can be?
A : It is the height of one forearm (*2) above the place of Salaah – that is the height of the rear end of a camel’s saddle. As for it’s width, there is no stipulated size. One can therefore use something even as thin as an arrow or a spear. It is not permissible, however, to take a Sutrah less than the height of the rear of a camel’s saddle. If on the other hand, after some effort to find one, none is found, one may use whatever is available, whatever the size. This is taken from the Qur’aanic saying in surah At-Taghaabun verse 16:
“So keep your duty to Allaah (and fear Him) as much as you can…”
And from the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) ,: “If I order you to do something then do as much of it as you are able to”. [Muslim]
The Prophet Muhammad e also said: “If any of you places something like (the size of) the rear of a camel’s saddle in front of him, then performs Salaah, then do not bother about whoever passes beyond that”. [Muslim]
The Prophet Muhammad e was also asked during the battle of Tabook, about the Sutrah of a person performing Salaah, so he said: “Like the rear end of a camel’s saddle”. [Muslim]
He e also said: “If there is something like (the size) of the rear end of a camels’ saddle between you and the pathway, then whoever passes in front of you would not harm you: (i.e. invalidate your Salaah)”. [Ibn Abi Shaybah/Abdur-Razaak and others]
. . . . . . . and other hadeeths some of which are to come.
In addition the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) performed Salaah with a spear, or sometimes a bow in front of him. [as reported in Muslim]
It is not therefore the width of the Sutrah that is considered, as we previously mentioned.
Q5 : Is there any one exempted from placing a Sutrah in front-of him while making Salaah
A : Yes, only those performing Salaah behind an Imaam. We gather this from the fact that the Prophet Muhammad e when he led the Salaah, placed a Sutrah in front of him and no one performing Salaah behind him did so. [As has been mentioned in a number of hadeeths in both Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim]
Q6 : What are the different types of Sutrah?
A : Everything that is the height of one arm’s length. As is evident from the saying of the Prophet Muhammad e,:
“Like (the size of) the rear end of a camel’s saddle.”