What is the manners of sitting in islam?
“O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (Spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allah provide for you.” Al-Mujadila 58; 11
The religion of Islam, which organizes every aspect of life, has established some manners for sitting, too. A Muslim cannot sit casually at random places. His/her every action is based on a principle.
There are various styles of sitting. Sitting on one’s knees, cross-legged, crouching, sitting by setting one’s legs up or, sitting by putting the hands back down on the ground and stretching the legs forward. Of course Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is our measure to find which one or ones of these styles are permitted.
1. Sitting Styles of the Prophet (pbuh)
The habitual sitting style of the Messenger of Allah was sitting on his knees. (Muslim, Iman, 1, 5; Bukhari, Iman, 37) However, there are other styles of sitting that were seen by the Prophet (pbuh).
One of them was to sit cross-legged. Jabir b. Samura (r.a.) reported that Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) used to sit (pbuh) cross-legged after performing fajr (early-morning) prayer until the sun rose high. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 26)
Sitting cross-legged was one of the sitting styles that the Prophet (pbuh) liked and frequently did; for this position makes a person comfortable and covers the private parts. Thus, it is an appropriate manner of sitting. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) preferred this position not only in the mosque but also in other places of gatherings. According to the historical sources we see that companions, too, preferred this sitting position.
Another style is the one called “kurfusa” or “ihtiba.” Ibn Umar (r. anhuma) reported:
“I saw Allah’s Apostle in the courtyard of the Ka’ba in the ihtiba posture putting his hands around his legs like this” and then he thrust his legs to his thighs, held his knees with his arms, and sat on his buttocks.” (Bukhari, Isthi’dhan, 34)
It is narrated by Qaylah daughter of Makhramah (r.anha): “When I came to accept the message of Islam, I saw the Prophet (pbuh) sitting with his arms around his legs. When I saw the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) in such a humble condition in the sitting position, I trembled with fear. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 22) This was also a sitting style chosen frequently by the Prophet (pbuh). According to Qadi Iyad Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) preferred this style more than sitting cross-legged. The reason for the preference of this position is, like sitting cross-legged, it ensures the Islamic principles of covering and non-existence of the possibility of revealing private parts. Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) often sat in this position.
However, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) prohibited this sitting style on Fridays while listening to the Friday sermon. (Abu Dawud, Salat, 228) This is because it might trigger an urge to sleep and keep one from listening to the sermon. The worst of all is that it may cause one to violate the ablution requirements.
Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) also sat crouching. He (pbuh) usually sat in this position, which is called “ihtifaz” and “i’qa,” while eating something. Anas b. Malik (r.a.) reported:
“I saw Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) squatting and eating dates.” (Muslim, Ashribah, 148-149)
Another position witnessed in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) was that he sat on the edge of a well and let his legs hang down.” According to an incident reported by Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (r.a.) he saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sitting at the edge of well called Aris with his legs uncovered, hanging in the well. (Bukhari, Ashab al-Nabi, 5)
2. Sitting styles which are not approved by the Prophet (pbuh)
There are also sitting styles disapproved by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). For instance, sitting by stretching one arm back and placing the palm on the ground is one of them. Sitting by stretching both arms and placing both palms is also among the disapproved sitting styles; for this position is characterized as the sitting style of people who feel themselves superior than others.
It is narrated by Ash-Sharid ibn Suwayd (r.a.):
The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) came upon me when I was sitting thus: having my left hand behind my back and leaning on my palm, and said:
“Are you sitting in the manner of those with whom Allah is angry?” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 24)
The significant point here is that Muslims, who are honored by the blessing of Islam, are ordered to avoid resembling non-Muslims even in their sitting styles. If a sitting, lying style or any other behavior are the signs of non-Muslims; and when people see such behaviors, if they remember non-Muslims, it is believers’ duty to avoid such behaviors.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also prohibited sitting at inappropriate places no matter what the sitting position was. One of them is to sit on or by the roads. The Prophet (pbuh) told his companions:
“Beware! Avoid sitting on the roads (ways).” They said,
“We have to do it, there is no way out of it as these are our sitting places where we talk our matters.” The Prophet said,
“If you must sit there, then observe the rights of the way.” They asked,
“What are the rights of the way?” He said,
“They are to lower of your gaze to avoid seeing what is illegal to look at, to refrain from harming people, to return greetings, to advocate good and forbid evil.” (Bukhari, Mazalim, 22; Muslim, Libas, 114)
In other versions, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) pointed to some other rights as “to give directions to the one who asks for them and to help to those who ask for help.”
Sitting and chatting unnecessarily on the passages of the people, watching them, and obstructing their comfortable passage are considered as indecent actions. However, when one has to do it, he should be careful about the points suggested by the Prophet (pbuh). Maybe it is to avoid sitting by the roads that believers have been accustomed to sit in the courtyards of mosques.
3. Manners of sitting amongst people and the gathering places
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) set up wonderful principles for sitting manners. For instance, he said that “one of you should not make another man get up to sit in his place. But instead they should open space by widening the circle.” (Bukhari, Jum’a, 20) Another narration of the Prophet (pbuh) stated that one who stands up from his place and goes away and then comes back to it, he has the greatest right to sit in that place. (Muslim, Salam, 31) When companions, who were trained by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), came to the Prophet (pbuh), each one would sit down where there was room. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 14)
This is a wonderful custom of the companions that we need to take as an example. Because choosing places to sit in a gathering and trying to sit in the best places might cause to discontentment and even fights amongst people. If there is no room for those who attend a gathering late, people should widen or tighten their circle and make room for them. This is among the manners of being in a congregation. Its significance is also mentioned in the Qur’an as follows:
“O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (Spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allah provide for you.” (Al-Mujadila 58; 11)
All these principles are set to prevent fights and resentments between people, which may originate from such reasons, and also to control people in society and accustom them to follow certain manners. These principles of manners are carefully followed in the contemporary Muslim society. Willingly and expecting to receive spiritual rewards, those who are young give their places to the scholars and the elders of the congregation. These are manifestations of how much the Prophet’s Sunnah has affected the Muslim nation.
Another principle of manner of being in a gathering is not to sit between two people without getting their consent first. In this context, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“One should not sit between two men except with their permission.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 21)
Separating two people by sitting between them or getting to the front rows by passing over their shoulders is not an appropriate behavior for believers; for in both of these situations there are behaviors which can cause one to hurt others. Also, there might be a secret talk or a special relation between tthe two people. In order to prevent such problems it is suggested to sit in the first available row in the mosques and keep the rows as tight as possible. Anas b. Malik (r.a.) narrated:
“One day when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was giving a sermon a man arrived and came to a place close to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) by stepping over people’s shoulders. After the prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) told the man:
“O so and so! What prevented you from performing the Friday prayer with us?” The man replied:
“O Messenger of Allah! I just wanted to sit in this place.” The Prophet (pbuh) told him:
“I saw you stepping over people’s shoulders and hurting them. You should know that one who hurts a believer actually hurts me and one who hurts me hurts Allah the Almighty.” (Haythami, II, 179)
Even though the man had performed his prayer and in a spot very close to the Prophet, the Prophet’s question to the man “What prevented you from performing the Friday prayer with us?” was to express the inappropriateness of his action. Otherwise no matter how wrong this action is, it is not something that lawfully violates the validity of prayer.
Sitting in the middle of a group to listen to a sermon or to attend a lesson is an action against the proper manners. According to Hudhaifa’s (r.a.) narration, the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) cursed the one who sat in the middle of a circle. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 14)
Such behavior, which is strongly prohibited by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), is objectionable for two reasons: First, passing to the front rows by stepping over the shoulders of people may cause harm to them. Second, sitting in the middle of a group might prevent people from seeing each other. This is also a different way of hurting people. Another reason for the wrongness of this behavior is that is manifests the psychological immaturity levity of such people.
Believers are prohibited to attend gatherings where anti-Islamic subjects are discussed. Allah the Almighty commands in the Qur’an:
“…when you hear the revelations of Allah rejected and derided, (you) sit not with them (who disbelieve and mock) until they engage in some other conversation. If you did, you would be like them…” (al-Nisa 4; 140)
According to this verse, being in congregations where the revelations of Allah are denied and His Messenger (pbuh) is ridiculed presents a serious danger to one’s faith.
However sometimes one may happen to be in places where useless subjects are discussed. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) showed the door of forgiveness for those who have to attend such gatherings in the following tradition:
“Whoever sits in gatherings where meaningless subjects are discussed and says the following supplication before leaving will be forgiven from his sins:
“Glorified are You O Allah! I am in your praise, I testify that there is no god but You, I ask your forgiveness and repent unto you.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 39)