Your Adornment in Prayer

على  رأس هذا الكون نعلُ محمدٍ * علت فجميعُ الخلق تحت ظلاله

لدى الطور موسى نودي اخلع وأحمدٌ * على القرب لم يؤمر بخلع نعاله

To the top of this universe rose the sandals of Muhammad,

And so all of creation are underneath their shade

At Mount Sinai the call came to Moses: ‘Take them off,’ but as for Ahmad,

Even in his nearness was not commanded to take his sandals off!

– al-Qadi Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabahani (may Allah be pleased with him).

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Do not do as the Jews, and pray in your sandals.’ [1] And that is because the Jews do not pray in their sandals, in imitation of their Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) for Allah (most high) commanded him to take off his sandals when He spoke to him. As for our Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), Allah (most high) said to him and to his Ummah: Oh children of Adam, wear your adornment at every masjid’ (7:31). So it is as if He (most high) said: ‘We have accepted you and your Ummah, to speak to Us in your sandals.’ So look at this great honoring!

Ibn Mardawayh narrated on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Among the things with which Allah honored this Ummah is their wearing of their sandals in their Prayer.’

Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Nasa’i narrated that Anas was asked:

‘Did the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) pray  in his sandals?’

He said: ‘Yes.’

Abu Ya’la narrated on the authority of Ali that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘The adornment of the Prayer is the shoe.’

Tabarani narrated in al-Awsat on the authority of Ibn Mas’ud that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘From among the things that complete the Prayer, is the wearing of sandals in prayer.’

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

Allah (most high) said: {Oh children of Adam, wear your adornment at every masjid} (7:31). Its meaning on the Outward level: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace): ‘Pray in your sandals.'[2]

Its meaning on the Inner level: The adornment of the human in his Prayer is the presence of his heart and the sincerity of his action. The meaning of sincerity is that his Prayer be purely for Allah (most high) as His perfection and majesty deserve, not out of hope of getting anything, or of being saved from anything. One only asks Allah for Paradise because it is the place of His contentment, and seeks refuge from the Fire because it is the place of His displeasure. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said,

‘Do not be like the bad laborer, if he is given money he works, and if he is not, he does not work; and do not be like the bad servant, if he is afraid, he works, and if he is not afraid, he does not work.'[3]

If the slave reaches this level, then he has worn his adornment, and the adornment is his station in the place of Servanthood (ubudiyya) in every way.

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Note: For us followers of our master Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), the Prayer is our Ascension. Like our Prophet and role model, we have not been asked to take off our footwear in the Prayer, but were instead honored and told to look our best and wear our adornments. However, when carpets were introduced to mosques, this Prophetic Sunna had to be abandoned for the sake of preservation and cleanliness of the carpets, and most Muslims today think that one is required to take off their shoes when they stand before their Lord (most great) in prayer, when it is the opposite of that.

Among the scholars who revived this Sunna in recent history is the great Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris (may Allah be pleased with him). This great scholar and reviver focused greatly on the Prayer and wrote many treatises on how to pray according to the authentic traditions.

The great Mufti of Zabid, Yemen,  Shaykh Abd al-Rahman bin Sulayman al-Ahdali said:

All the people, the elect and the commoners, crowded around him, and benefited from him greatly in the matters of their religion, because this sayyid’s guidance in his worship and dealings is the Prophetic guidance, especially in the Prayer, for he (may Allah increase our benefit from him) used to pray it in the most perfect way that is described in the authentic hadiths of the Teacher of the Shari’a (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not command the cleansing of the sandals with water. He used to pray in his sandals, and so did the Companions behind him. One time, Gabriel came down to tell him that in one of his sandals was an impurity, so he took them off and built upon his Prayer (continued from where he had stopped), and then the Companions also took off their sandals. When he finished he said to them: ‘Why did you take off your sandals?’ They said: ‘We followed your example, oh Messenger of Allah!’ So he said: ‘I only took them off because Gabriel told me..’  until the end of the hadith.

Al-Bayhaqi narrated on the authority of  al-Miswar that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‘He who finds in his robe or sandal an impurity, while he is in the midst of prayer, should throw it off him and continue the prayer.’

He likewise narrated that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‘When one of you comes to the masjid, let him flip over his sandals to see if there is an impurity in them. If he finds an impurity in them, he should wipe them clean with the ground, then pray in them.’

He likewise narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‘We said: O Messenger of Allah, we sometimes walk toward the masjid but step on a road that has impurities in it.

So the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: roads (i.e. what is on the roads) purify each other.’

This statement is made clearer by the other hadith narrated by al-Bayhaqi also:

‘If one of you steps on something impure with his sandals, the soil (that he will step on later) will purify it.’

That is like the answer that he (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) gave to Umm Salama. Al-Bayhaqi narrated that she asked about a woman whose robe has a long train, and she walks in an impure place. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:  “What comes after it will purify it.”

However Imam al-Shafi’i had evidence that one should wash a robe or sandal if it became impure from something on the ground. Also, in today’s modern cities, where we do not walk on sand, we have to be extra careful about the purity of our footwear. Perhaps one could have a pair of beautiful sandals or shoes that are kept in the house just for the prayer, so that one looks their best in the prayer.

Of course when we pray in carpeted mosques, it is necessary that we take our shoes off, but when you pray anywhere else, do not think that you are required to take them off. Instead, they are your adornment, and they help complete your Prayer by making you look your best in it. By wearing them, you are also acknowledging the great honor that your Lord bestowed upon you and the rest of the Ummah of Muhammad-  the Messenger of Allah and His beloved (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

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[1] ‘Do not do as the Jews, and pray in your sandals and khufs, for they do not pray in their sandals or khufs.’ Narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Hakim, who declared it to be authentic, on the authority of Shaddaad ibn Aws. Al-Bazzar narrated a hadith like it on the authority of Anas ibn Malik.

[2] Ibn ‘Asakir and others narrated that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah blessed him and grant him peace) explained the Qur’anic injunction: {Wear your adornment at every masjid} by saying: ‘Pray in your sandals.’ While most scholars deemed this particular hadith to be fabricated, the hadith scholar Ali bin Muhammad ibn Arraq said in Tanzih al-Shari’a al-Marfu’a that the other supporting hadiths above show that it should not be deemed to be fabricated, but only weak in isnad.

[3] Ma’mar bin Ahmad al-Asbahani narrated in his Forty Hadith collection on the authority of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud that he said:

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) censured us in his Khutba. He said,

Oh Ummah of Muhammad! A sage among the sages showed more understanding than you when his companions called him to pleasures and disobedience. He said, ‘I am ashamed of my Lord to worship him, hoping for Paradise as a reward, and therefore be like a bad laborer: if he is given his wage he works, and if he is not given it, he does not work. And I am ashamed of my Lord to worship him out of fear of the Fire and therefore also be like a bad laborer: if he is fearful of his master he works, and if he is not, he does not work. I only worship Him for what He deserves, for He deserves to be worshiped.’

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