[By Maulana Najeeb Qasmi]
As the Islamic Shari’ah presents unambiguous injunctions, the entire Muslim Ummah is united on nearly eighty percent issues of the day to day life. The entire Ummah is united on the fact that indicating with finger in Tashahhud is not Fardh (compulsory) or Wajib (mandatory) and is Sunnah instead. It means to say that if a person could not indicate with his finger in Salah, even then his Salah is fully valid. But in the current era, when the enemies of Islam are attacking Islam and Muslims from all sides and the Muslim community is facing a new problem each on passing day, some people (an ideological group which does not make even one percent of the entire Muslim population in the sub-continent) want to keep the Muslim Ummah busy in minor issues which have neither been settled yet, nor do they seem possible to be solved in the future, although they are fully aware of the current position of the Ummah. This issue even does not go against the injunctions of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.
Indicating with the index finger in Tashahhud is unanimously Sunnah based on Sahih Ahadith. Numerous ways of indicating with the finger are mentioned in the Ahadith and all of them are permissible. The best way according to the Hanafi scholars is that one should close the little finger of the right hand and the finger next to it on reaching the Shahadah. A circle of the middle finger and the thumb should be made. But the index finger should be left open. It will be raised on “La Ilaaha” and left down on Illallah”. Alike the Hanafi scholars, numerous Hadith scholars and jurists such as Imam Shafi’e, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Imam Nawawi and Imam Baihaqi (rahimahumullah) hold the same view that only indication should be made with the index finger; it should not be moved.
Abdullah ibn Zubair (radhoyallahu anhu) says that when the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) used to recite Tashahhud, he would place his right hand on his right thigh and the left hand on his left thigh. He would indicate with his index finger and keep his thumb on his middle finger (Sahih Muslim: Chapter: The way of sitting in Salah).
Abdullah ibn Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu) says that when the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would call Allah, he would indicate with his finger and would not move it (Sunan Abi Dawood: Chapter: Indicating with finger in Tashahhud, Sunan Nasa’i: Chapter: Spreading the left palm on the thigh).
This Hadith clearly mentions that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would only indicate with his finger and would not move it again and again. Imam Nawawi, the author of the most renowned commentary of Sahih Muslim and Riyadh al Saliheen (631 AH – 676 AH) writes that this Hadith is related by Imam Abu Dawood and the chain of its narrators is trustworthy. (Al-Majmu’: vol. 3, p. 417) Imam Ibn Mulqin (723 AH – 804 AH) writes that Imam Abu Dawood has related this Hadith with an authentic chain (Khulasah al-Badr al-Munir: Chapter: The method of Salah).
Those who move their finger instead of only indicating with it substantiate their view with the Hadith of Wa’il ibn Hujr (radhiyallahu anhu). This Hadith states that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) made a circle with three fingers, raising one finger. I saw that he was moving it and praying (Musnad Ahmad & Sunan Baihaqi).
Based on this Hadith, these people opine that one should keep moving one’s finger till the end of the Salah, while neither this Hadith nor any other Hadith mentions the specific way of moving the finger as to how slow, faster or how long should it be moved. Also, if this meaning is deduced from this Hadith, it will clash with the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu), which clearly establishes that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would only indicate with his finger and would not move it constantly.
Since the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu) goes clearly against their view, they have the only way to escape by declaring it weak. The fact is that it has been classified as Sahih by the renowned Hadith critic Imam Nawawi whose services to the science of Hadith are acclaimed by the whole world. In the current era, Nasiruddin Albani (1914 – 1999), to support his view, has tried to declare Muhammad ibn Ajalan, a narrator of the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Zubai, weak. On the contrary, Allamah ibn Hajar, a great Hadith scholar and the author of the most acclaimed commentary on Sahih Bukhari has declared him as trustworthy (thiqah) by calling him “one of the practicing Ulama”.
The Hadith on the basis of which they advocate moving the finger constantly has been narrated by eleven narrators on the authority of Aasim (radhiyallahu anhu). Apart from Zayda ibn Qudamah, all the ten narrators have narrated this Hadith without the phrase “Yuharrikuha” (moving it). Thus, this phrase in this Hadith is shadh (rare) according to the established principle of Hadith. Thus, substantiating the view with this Hadith is not correct. After mentioning this Hadith in his Sahih, the renowned scholar of Hadith Ibn Khuzaimah points out to it being Shadh: “No Ahadith except this one has the phrase “Yuharrikuha”. Imam Muslim has recorded numerous Ahadith in his Sahih on this topic. But not even a single Hadith records the phrase “moving it”. All the ‘Ahadith recorded in Sahih Muslim present only the phrase “indicating”. This clearly establishes that the actual motive is only to indicate.
In his renowned collection of Hadith “Al-Sunan al-Kubra”, the famous scholar Imam Baihaqi (384 AH – 458 AH) reconciles between these two Ahadith: the word “moving” in the Hadith of Ibn Wa’il means “indicating”, not “moving” the finger again and again, as indication does not occur without movement. This way the Hadith of Ibn Wa’il (radhiyallahu anhu) falls in agreement with the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu) in terms of meaning.
In short, holding this view will help practice on both the Ahadith and there will arise no need to have argument to declare any Hadith weak. In his celebrated authorship Al-Mirqat, the famous Hanafi scholar Mulla Ali al-Qari (d. 1014 AH) (rahimahullah) writes that moving the finger means only raising it, and ‘raising the finger’ cannot occur without movement. (I’la’ al Sunan) In short, the majority of the scholars including the Hanafi scholars, Imam Shafi’e, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Imam Nawawi and Imam Baihaqi (rahimahumullah) are united on the view that indicating with the finger one time only will suffice. There is no proof of constantly moving the finger. Even the majority of the scholars in the sub-continent, who prefer the opinion of the famous jurist Imam Abu Hanifah (b. 80 AH) in the disputed issues in the light of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith, holds the same view.
Removing a misconception
They put the objection that there is no clear proof of raising the index finger on “La Ilaha” and getting it down on “illallah” from the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). Firstly, the word “indicating” found in Ahadith itself is a proof that only “indicating” is meant here, not “moving” it. And the indication will automatically end on “Illallah”. Imam Muslim has recorded numerous Ahadith in his Sahih on this topic. But all the Ahadith have only the word “indicating”. The word “moving” or “constant moving” is not found even at a single place. Secondly, to keep on raising the finger or moving it till the end of Salah has no base in the teachings of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).
The reality of indication
The indication of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was actually the indication of Tauheed, Oneness of Allah. Tauheed is the name of Tashahhud, as it has the acknowledgment of Allah’s oneness and testifying it. In Tauheed, godhead is negated for everything other than Allah on one hand and it is affirmed and acknowledged for Allah Alone on the other hand. Thus, the indication too should consist of both, the negation as well as affirmation. This is the reason why the Hanafi scholars have declared the raising of finger as affirmation and getting it down as negation. Even a Hadith has been reported that to support this view. Khafaf bin Aima (radhiyallahu anhu) says when the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would sit towards the end of Salah, he would indicate with his finger. The disbelievers would say (God forbid) that he would cast magic through indicating with his finger. In fact, they would lie. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would actually indicate to the Oneness of Allah with his finger (Majma’ al Zawa’id: Chapter: Tashahhud, sitting and indicating with finger in it). The Hadith scholar Allamah Haithami writes that this Hadith is related by Imam Ahmad and Imam Tabarani and its narrators are trustworthy.
The view of Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi and Imam Ahmad Hanbal (rahimahumullah) is established through the hadith narrated by Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Zubair (radhiyallahu anhu) that the Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) would point with his finger when he prayed and he would not move it. (Sunan Nasai p.187 v.1)
Virtues of raising the index finger
Nafi’ says that when Abdullah ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) sat in (Qa’dah of) Salah, he would place both his palms on both his knees and would indicate with his index finger. He would keep his eyes on his finger. After finishing the Salah, he would say that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: “It is harder on the devil than the iron, i.e. index finger.” The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) actually meant to say that pointing with the index finger to affirm the Oneness of Allah in the state of Tashahhud is harder on the devil than hitting someone with spares (Musnad Ahmad).
Indicating with the finger towards the direction of Qiblah
Abdullah ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the indication is made towards the direction of Qiblah. (Al-Sunan al-Kubra by Imam Baihaqi) The meaning of this narration is that the finger should face the direction of the Qiblah while indication is made, and not towards the sky.
The Ulama are united in the light of the sayings and the actions of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) on the point that indicating with the index finger in the state of Tashahhud is Sunnah. They have, however, held different opinions in the method of indication since long. This dispute has neither yet been settled, nor does it seem possible to be solved in the future. Thus, we should better focus on the necessary and important affairs of the Ummah, instead of making arguments on such disputed issues. For example, a large number of individuals among the Ummah are not ready to offer Salah at all. Thus, we should spend our energies to find out how to invite and persuade the entire Ummah so that they become punctual to Salah, instead of focusing on the superficial issues. We should also spend our energies to find out the way to make every Muslim individual remain content only with the lawfully earned livelihood and avoid the unlawful means of earning.
I have penned down these few paragraphs, because some people, who do not make even one percent of the entire population of the Muslim world, are hell bent to spread a big fitnah among the Ummah on the basis of the minor issues, while Allah has called the fitnah in the Holy Qur’an greater than killing a human being. We should present our views in the best of manners giving due respect to the views of others too.
In short, numerous ways of indicating with finger in the state of Tashahhud are mentioned in the Hadith. They all are permissible. The best way according to the Hanafi scholars is that one should close the little finger of the right hand and the finger next to it on reaching the Shahadah. A circle should be made with the middle finger and the thumb. The index finger should be left open and should be raised on “La Ilaah” and put down on “Illallah”.