What are the things that invalidate the prayer? What voids prayer islam? Does eating invalidate prayer?
When one of the conditions or essential pillars of the prayer is not fulfilled, the prayer is invalidated and must be performed again. The ṣalāh can also be invalidated due to some words, actions, and situations that occur during the prayer and are incompatible with the quality of the prayer. The concepts of being fāsid and being bāṭil are used synonymously in regards to the acts of worship. There is a consensus among the schools on this issue. Here we will use the word “invalidation” instead of the terms fāsid and bāṭil. However, according to the Ḥanafis, the terms fāsid and bāṭil were used with different meanings concerning contracts such as sale, marriage, and partnership.
In this section, we will make a list of the situations which invalidate the prayer and present an explanation of the points on which the schools have different views. The main situations that invalidate a prayer can be listed as follows:
1) Speaking in Prayer
According to three schools other than the Malikis, all kinds of speaking in prayer intentionally, unintentionally, mistakenly, forgetfully, or as a result of getting scared invalidates the prayer. According to the Malikis, if speaking is carried out to correct the imam’s mistake, if it is not too much, and if the imam does not understand that he made a mistake when he was warned through phrases such as subḥanallah, the prayer is not invalidated.
Zayd Ibn Arkām (ra) said, “We used to talk in prayer, a person would talk to a friend next to him in prayer. When the verse “…and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind).” was revealed, we were ordered to keep silent and were forbidden to speak during the prayer.”
It is narrated from Jabir ibn Abdullah (ra) that he said, “I was with the Prophet (saw). He sent me somewhere for work. When I turned, I found him praying on his mount, with his face away from the qibla. I saluted him, but he did not respond to my greeting. When he concluded the prayer, he said, “Nothing but being in prayer would prevent me from responding to your greetings.”
Muawiya ibn Hakam al-Sulami reports, “While praying with the Prophet, someone in the congregation sneezed. I said, “yarḥamukallāh (may Allah have mercy on you)”. The congregation then stared at me. I said, “What is wrong with you that you are looking at me like that?”. This time, they started hitting their hands on their thighs. I stopped when I realized that they wanted to silence me. When the Prophet completed the prayer, “May my parents be sacrificed for him, I have never seen a better teacher than him, neither before nor after him. I swear by Allah that he neither frowned upon me, nor beat me, nor did he scold me, he just said, “It is not appropriate to speak human words during this prayer. The ṣalāh is only a form of worship consisting of tasbīḥ, takbīr, and recitation of the Qur’an.” On the other hand, the Messenger of Allah used to respond to greetings given to him even when he was praying before the migration to Abyssinia, after returning from the Abyssinian migration he began not to respond to the greetings during the prayer. In response to a question asked, he said, “In prayer, there is no doubt that it has its own occupation.”
In the light of these hadiths, the words and sounds that are not considered speech while praying can be listed as follows:
a) Saying “yarḥamukallāh” to a person who sneezes or saying “amīn (O my Lord, accept)” after someone else says “raḥimakallah” invalidates the prayer. However, if a person who sneezes says “yarḥamukallāh” to himself, it does not invalidate the prayer. Because in the latter case, it does not consist of a situation where one is responding to someone else.
b) Crying loudly due to a calamity, such as the loss of a property or a friend, in such a manner that letters can be clearly heard and pronounced, or making sounds like “ah, uf, of” or making the sound of “uf, tuh” as a sign of boredom or to blow dust, all invalidates the prayer.
However, the groaning of the patient, who cannot control himself, does not invalidate the prayer. Because the groaning of the patient in this situation is like sneezing, coughing, and yawning for reasons that are out of one’s control. In such cases, because there is a necessity, even if some letters are pronounced, the prayer is not considered invalidated.
Crying, groaning, and saying “ah” out of fear of Allah or remembering Paradise or Hell does not invalidate the prayer.
c) The situation of the person who cries because he likes the imam’s recitation of the Qur’an may have varying rulings. If this is an act of awe, his prayer is not invalidated. However, if he cries because of the pleasure he gets from the beauty of his voice, his prayer is invalidated. Also, the prayers of the congregation who weep while the imam is reciting the Qur’an, remembering heaven or hell, and saying “balā (Yea)” or “neam (yes)” out of awe will not be invalidated.
d) Saying, “innā lillahi wa innā ilayhi raji’ūn (We came from Allah and we will return to Him in the end)” as a response to bad news heard while praying invalidates the prayer. Because this expression is in the nature of responding to the news outside the prayer.
e) If one says, “lā ḥawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh” due to a satanic delusion that occurs in prayer if this delusion is about something related to the hereafter, the prayer is not invalidated, but if it is a mundane delusion, it will be invalidated. This is because delusion is a pain and an agony. In such a case, the word “lā ḥawla” would be said due to feeling worldly pain.
f) If the person performing the prayer says “lā ilāha illallāh (There is no god but Allah)” or “jalla jalāluhu (May his glory be glorified)”, intending to respond when he hears the name of Allah or respond with “salawāt” when the name of the Prophet is mentioned or if he utters words such as “ṣadaqa Allāhu’l-aẓīm (Allah has spoken the truth)” after the recitation of the imam, his prayer is considered invalid. However, if he does not mean to respond with these words to someone external to the ṣalāh, but perhaps to praise Allah and His Messenger and show respect to them, his prayer will not be considered invalid. This is because showing respect to Allah and sending blessings and greetings to His Messenger (saw) cannot be considered to be contrary to prayer.
g) If one says “alḥamdulillāh”, “Allahu Akbar” or “subḥanallāh” or increases his voice to inform that he is praying to someone who calls the person in prayer or asks his permission to enter, his prayer will not be considered invalidated.
h) To recite a supplication found in the Qur’an or in a hadith in ṣalāh does not invalidate the prayer. For instance reciting the supplications “Allāhumma akrimnī (O Allah! Bless me)”, “Allāhumma an‘im ‘alayya (O Allah! Give me your bounties)”, and “Allāhumma’ghfirlī wa li walidayya wa li’l-mu’minīna yawma yaqūm al-ḥisāb (O Allah! Cover (us) with Your Forgiveness – me, my parents, and (all) Believers, on the Day that the Reckoning will be established!)”. However, a supplication like “Allahumma’ghfir li ‘ammī (O Allah! Forgive my uncle)” or “Allāhumma’ghfir li khalatī (O Allah! Forgive my aunt)” invalidates the prayer. This is because such a form of prayer is found neither in the Qur’an nor in the hadiths. Outside the ṣalāh, it is possible and permissible to say any kind of prayer for legitimate requests, whether there is an example found in the Qur’an and in the sunnah or not.
Asking Allah something asked from people by similar expressions that people say, that is, something that is not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah invalidates the prayer. For instance, praying “Allāhumma at’imnī laḥman (O Allah! Give me meat)”, “Allāhumma a’qid daynī (O Allah! Pay my debt)”, and “Allāhumma’rzuqnī zawjatan (O Allah! Give me a wife).”
i) To greet someone out loud or to receive out loud the greeting of someone else or to greet someone by shaking hands invalidates the prayer. It does not matter whether such greetings are done knowingly or forgetfully or by error.
If a salutation is made with the hand or head, or if a gesture is made with the head, eyes, or eyebrows to signal something desired, the prayer will not be invalidated.
j) If the person praying is told to “go forward” or “give someone else some space in the row” and he acts in accordance with such an order, his prayer is considered invalidated. For in ṣalāh, he obeys the order of someone other than Allah. However, if someone by his own choice moves a little to open some space and offers room to someone else then this act does not invalidate the prayer.
k) Even though the prayer is not invalidated by looking at something written in prayer and understanding it, it is makrūḥ to do so. According to Abu Ḥanīfa, reading the text of the Qur’an while praying invalidates the prayer. This is because carrying the Qur’an, looking at it, and turning its leaves are “‘amal al-kathīr (too many actions)”. This is also similar to following the order of someone else from outside the prayer. According to Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, the prayer is not invalidated, but such an act is only makrūḥ. This is because reading from the Qur’an is an act of worship and if it is done while praying, it is considered to be an addition to another worship. Yet, it is considered makrūḥ because it resembles the deeds of the People of the Book.
l) If the imam makes a mistake in recitation or shows hesitation in recitation, it is permissible for the congregation to correct his mistake and remind him of the recited verses before transferring to another verse. However, the congregation should not rush to correct the imam’s mistake. It would be makrūḥ to remind the imam as soon as he gets stuck in recitation. It is also makrūḥ for such an imam to seek help from the congregation. When the imam has difficulty in recitation, if he has recited enough for the prayer to be valid, he should either go down to rukūʿ or skip to another verse that he knows.
After the imam skips to another verse, the prayer of the congregation who corrects the previous mistake is invalidated. If the imam follows the person who corrects his recitation after he skips to other verses and continues to recite the corrected verses, the imam’s prayer will also be invalidated. Because in such a case, there is a case of suggesting and accepting a suggestion without necessity.
Miswar ibn Yazīd al-Makkī (ra) said, “The Prophet led a prayer and skipped a verse while reading it. After the prayer, someone from the congregation told the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah! You skipped such and such verses”, the Prophet said, “I wish you reminded me.”
The second piece of evidence showing that it is permissible to correct the recitation errors in prayer is the following hadith narrated by Ibn Umar (ra), “The Prophet (saw) led the prayer and got stuck in a verse while he was reciting the Qur’an in the prayer. After the prayer, he asked my father: “Were you with us in prayer?” My father replied, “Yes, I was”. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (saw), “Then what prevented you from reminding me of the place that I got stuck?”
If a person corrects the mistake in recitation of a person other than his imam in prayer and helps him continue his recitation, his prayer will be invalidated. Because this is considered teaching and learning. Teaching and learning are regarded as dealing with too many deeds in the ritual prayer. However, if he recites the verses with the intention of recitation instead of correcting the imam’s mistakes, and as a result, the imam corrects his reading, his prayer will not be invalidated.
2) Eating – Drinking
Anything swallowed or drunk after starting the prayer invalidates the ṣalāh, even if it is a little. However, swallowing something stuck between the teeth because of something eaten before the prayer does not invalidate the ṣalāh, but swallowing something, big or small, and by chewing it in the mouth invalidates the prayer. Accordingly, chewing gum or swallowing a dissolving candy taken into the mouth before the prayer invalidates the prayer. This is because such acts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are deeds external to the ritual prayer.
3) Doing Too Many Deeds Successively (‘amal al-kathir)
Doing an excessive amount of deeds and actions that are not part of the ṣalāh and are not intended to make the ṣalāh better invalidates the prayer. A little work and action in prayer is called “‘amal al-qalīl” and does not invalidate the prayer. The acts that make an outsider have no doubt that the person who does that action is not in prayer is called too many deeds (‘amal al-kathīr). If a person observes a person doing such an action but is in doubt about whether he or she is performing the prayer or not, such an action is considered ‘amal al-qalīl. Some of the actions that are considered ‘amal al-kathīr are as follows:
a) If a person picks up a stone from the ground and throws it at a bird or an animal while he is praying, his prayer is invalidated. This is because such an act is accepted as ‘amal al-kathīr. But if he throws a stone that he already has with one hand, it will not invalidate the prayer for it would be an ‘amal al-qalīl. However, this person will have committed a bad deed because he became busy with something else during the ṣalāh.
b) If a person scratches his body once or twice successively, or once or twice in different cycles, his prayer is not considered invalid. However, if it is scratched three times successively in one cycle, it is considered invalid. It is important to note that scratching a limb several times without moving the hand away counts as scratching once.
c) Taking at least three steps one after the other without any excuse during the prayer invalidates the prayer. However, if one walks toward the qibla by taking a break after each step long enough to perform a rukn (enough to say subḥanallah three times), the prayer is not considered invalidated. Even if one walks for a long time in this manner, the prayer is not invalidated as long as the place does not change.
On the other hand, walking three steps from the place where the prayer is performed, against one’s own will, for reasons such as being struck by a person or being removed from the place where the prayer is performed, also invalidates the prayer.
d) In prayer, without repeating it, lifting the turban or cap from the head with one hand and placing it on the ground or lifting it from the ground to the head does not invalidate the prayer. However, if taking it off the ground and putting it on the head requires a lot of action, the prayer will be considered invalidated.
e) If a person performing a prayer hits another person with a hand, a stick, or something similar, his prayer will be considered invalidated. This is due to the fact that this is an ‘amal al-kathīr. However, the ṣalāh is not invalidated if a person praying, sitting on an animal, hits the animal once or twice.
Again, moving one foot twice to make the animal walk does not invalidate the prayer. However, moving both legs invalidates it since two feet are like two hands.
f) Getting on an animal during the prayer invalidates the prayer, but dismounting from an animal does not. It is also possible to apply these provisions about animals to contemporary transportation vehicles.
g) Wearing even one shoe with both hands while praying invalidates the prayer. However, taking off the shoes effortlessly does not invalidate the prayer.
h) If a person knowingly or unknowingly eats something, little or big, drinks a little water, puts oil, cream, or something similar on one of his limbs or hair, combs his hair or braids, his prayer will be considered invalid. This is because these acts are accepted as ‘amal al-kathīr.
i) Picking up and breastfeeding a child during the ṣalāh invalidates the prayer. If the child comes and sucks on his own, and if he suckles only once or twice and no milk comes out, the prayer is not considered However, if the milk comes out, or if the child suckles more than twice even without no milk coming out, the prayer is considered invalid.
j) The prayer of a man who is in prayer will not be invalidated by the kiss or caress of his wife. As long as it does not cause any lust in the man. However, a woman’s prayer will be invalidated when her husband passionately caresses her or kisses her, whether or not she feels lust. This is because the husband is regarded as the active partner in sexual relations.
k) If a person, who is praying, counts with two or three fingers on one hand in a response to his own inquiry about how many cycles he has prayed, his prayer will not be regarded as invalidated.
4) Turning One’s Back Towards The Qibla
According to the Ḥanafis and the Shafiʿis, turning one’s back towards the qibla without an excuse invalidates the prayer. If he turns his back towards the qibla due to an excuse, his prayer is not considered invalid for such acts are forgiven.
5) Uncovering The Awrah
Uncovering intentionally the parts of the body that need to be covered while performing a prayer, or if a woman’s head cover slips due to wind or similar reasons, and if the head is uncovered for a period of time enough to perform a rukn, it invalidates the prayer. According to the Ḥanafis, uncovering at least one-fourth of a limb from the awrah is sufficient to invalidate the prayer.
6) Invalidation of The Wudu of A Person Who is Praying
If something involuntary like a nosebleed or vomiting, which will invalidate his or her wuḍū’, happens to a person who is praying, he or she has two choices. If she or he wishes, she or he can perform ablution and re-perform the prayer. That is the virtuous option. Or, if he or she wishes, he or she can perform ablution with the water in the nearest place without dealing with anything incompatible with the prayer, and if she or he is someone who prays alone, then she or he can complete the rest of the prayer at the place where she or he performed the ablution or come back to the place where he or she first started the prayer before and complete the prayer there. If he or she is praying with the congregation, he or she should return to the place where the congregation was and complete the prayer there. If the congregational prayer is finished, then he or she should act like a person praying alone. If such a person does not go to the nearest water source to perform wuḍū’ and goes farther away, or if he or she recites the Qur’an on his or her way, or if his or her awrah gets uncovered during that time, she or he cannot build the rest of the prayer on the part that was previously performed, and she or he must perform it again. (See the section about “lāhiq”).
It is permissible for an imam whose prayer is invalidated to be replaced by someone else. There is a consensus on this matter. This is done as follows: If the ablution of the imam is nullified for any reason such as a nosebleed, he will appoint someone suitable for the imamate to pass the prayer niche by pointing at him or by pulling at his clothes. If there is only one person together with the imam, and if this person is suitable for imamate, he will be designated to go to the prayer niche. If the imam leaves the mosque without appointing someone in his place, or if they are praying in an open field and the imam moves away from the rows, the prayer of the congregation will be invalid. In such a case, the imam will become like a person who prays alone. If he wants, he can perform wuḍū and complete the rest of the prayer, or re-perform the prayer. If the congregation is mostly unable to understand the situation, it is more virtuous to perform the prayer again rather than to have someone else replace the imam. Otherwise, some confusion may arise among the congregation.
According to the Ḥanafis, the prayer is valid if the ablution is invalidated involuntarily, and it is after sitting the length of tashahhud in the last sitting. According to the other three madhhabs, the length of tashahhud in the last sitting is not sufficient to end the prayer, since salutation is one of the obligatory acts of prayer.
7) Laughing out loud
According to the Ḥanafis, if the person performing the prayer laughs loud enough for only himself to hear, it only invalidates his prayer. If he laughs loud enough that other people can hear, it invalidates both his ablution and ṣalāh. Smiling does not invalidate the prayer. According to the other three schools, laughing, no matter how loud it is, invalidates only the prayer and does not affect the ablution.
It was narrated by Abu Musa al-Ash’arī (ra) that he said, “One day, while the Messenger of Allah (saw) was leading people in prayer, a man entered the mosque and fell into a pit inside the mosque. The man was blind. Most of the congregation at the prayer began to laugh at this event. Thereupon, the Prophet (saw) ordered those who laughed to re-perform their ablution as well as their prayers.” In like manner, the Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever among you laughs with laughter, let him repeat both the prayer and the ablution together.”
8) Fainting, Going Insane, or Dying
In such cases, the prayer is invalidated because the human is either not conscious, unaware or simply no longer exists amongst the living.
9) Changing The Intention in Prayer
If one intends to switch from one prayer that she or he is performing to another prayer and say takbīr, the previous prayer becomes invalid. For example, if, after performing one cycle of the noon prayer, one starts the afternoon prayer or a supererogatory prayer by uttering the takbīr, the first-noon prayer is considered invalid. If a person starts to perform the farḍ cycles of prayer alone, then says the opening takbīr again, intending to join the ṣalāh that just started to be performed by the congregation, or if he intends to become the imam for the women in the prayer that he already started, the first prayer he started will be considered invalid and the second prayer that he continues will have started.
10) To Abandon A Condition or An Essential Pillar of The Prayer Without An Excuse
Neglecting an essential pillar of the prayer without making it up will invalidate the prayer. For instance, not performing the prostration of one cycle of the prayer and saluting without making it up. Again, abandoning one of the conditions of the prayer without an excuse will invalidate the prayer. If there are no valid excuses, such as not being able to find a dress to cover the awrah, not being able to find water to clean the impurities of the body, or being too ill to turn towards the qibla, the prayer is invalidated due to the abandonment of the conditions of the prayer.
11) Performing A Pillar Before the Imam
If someone performs a pillar before the imam, even if it is done by mistake, and does not repeat the pillar with or after the imam, and if he offers greetings to the imam at the end of the prayer, his prayer is considered invalid. If he repeats this pillar with or after the imam and offers greetings together with the imam at the end of the prayer, then his prayer is considered valid.
According to the Shafiʿis, the prayers of the congregation, without an excuse for forgetfulness, are not invalidated unless they actually perform two pillars before the imam.
12) The Man Who Prays In Line with The Woman without Any Space in Between
According to the Ḥanafis, praying men and women next to each other without having space between them enough for a person to pray or without having between them something such as a curtain, wall, railing, or similar obstacles invalidates the prayer. According to the other three schools, a man praying in line with a woman does not invalidate the prayer. (For details see the topic below titled “Man’s prayer in a line with the woman”).
13) If A Person Praying by Performing Tayammum Sees Water
If a person praying by performing tayammum sees water and is able to use it, her or his prayer will be considered invalidated. For example, being able to hear the sound of water during the prayer. However, according to the Ḥanafis, the presence of water in the last sitting, after sitting the length of tashahhud does not invalidate the prayer for now the prayer is considered complete.
14) To Deliberately Salute Before Ehe Completion of The Prayer
The prayer of a person who offers greetings at the end of the first sitting, by mistaking a four-cycle prayer for two without knowing it, is invalid. For instance, offering greetings in the first sitting by mistaking the farḍ cycles of night prayer for the tarawīḥ, and the farḍ cycles of the noon prayer for the Friday or dawn prayer. However, if one knows that the prayer consists of four cycles and which prayer is performed, but mistakenly offers greetings after the first sitting, the prayer will not be invalidated. As long as there is no deed or speech after the salutation, the rest of the prayer can be completed. However, due to the delay, the prostration of forgetfulness needs to be performed at the end.
15) Invalidation of The Salah Due to Some Things That Happen Unwillingly
If the sun rises while performing the dawn prayer, if the zawāl time starts while performing the Eid prayer, or if the time of the late afternoon prayer starts when performing the Friday prayer, the prayer will be considered invalidated. However, if the time of the late afternoon prayer starts when performing the noon prayer, the noon prayer will not be invalidated. If the maximum time limit of wiping over the khuffs ends when the person is performing a prayer, his prayer will be invalidated. (Regarding the maximum time limits of wiping over the khuffs see the section about wiping over the khuffs).
 See al-Kāsānī, ibid, I, 233-242; Ibn Abidīn, ibid, I, 574 ff.; al-Shurunbulālī, ibid, 52 ff.; al-Maydanī, Lubāb, I, 86 ff.; al-Shirazī, ibid, I, 76-77; Ibn Qudāmah, ibid, II, 1-5, 44-62; Al-Zuhaylī, ibid, II, 5 ff.; Bilmen, ibid, İst. 1985, p. 231 ff. Akyüz, ibid, vol. 1, pp. 122-123. Al-Baqara, 2: 238. Al-Bukhari, ‘Amal fi aṣ-Ṣalāh, 2; Muslim, Masājid, 35; al-Tirmidhī, Mawāqīṭ, 180; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, I, 435, IV, 368. Muslim, Masājid, 37. Al-Shawkanī, ibid, II, 314. Al-Bukhari, ‘Amal fi aṣ-Ṣalāh, 2, 15, Manāqib al-Anṣār, 37; Muslim, Masājid, 34; Abū Dawūd, Ṣalāh, 166. Al-Baqara, 2: 156. Al-Kāsānī, ibid, I, 220-242; Ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, I, 280-286; Ibn Abidīn, I, 574 ff.; al-Zuhaylī, ibid, II, 6 ff.; Bilmen, ibid, p. 231, 232. Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, IV, 74; al-Shawkanī, ibid, II, 322. Al-Shawkanī, ibid, II, 322. Al-Zaylaī, Naṣb al-Rāya, I, 47-54. Ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, I, 285; Ibn Abidīn, Radd al-Mukhtār, I, 583; al-Zaylaī, Tabyīn al-Ḥaqāiq, I, 158. Al-Zuhaylī, ibid, II, 22.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ilmiḥal) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications