Sujuud as Sahw - Prostration of Forgetfulness

Sujuud as SahwSujood Sahw refers to the prostrations of forgetfulness. There are instances in our Salat when we commit some errors or forget to do something (which is supposedly a part of Salat); such cases are dealt with Sujood Sahw.

Let us find out the correct way of dealing with such cases, according to Sunnah.

1. If we forget any part of raka’at or a whole raka’at during Salat

Narrated Abdullah bin Buhaina (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) once led us in Salat and offered two raka’at and got up (for the third raka’at) without sitting (after second raka’at, for At-Tahhiyat). The people also got up with him, and when he was about to finish his Salat, we waited for him to finish the Salat with Taslim, but he said Takbir before Taslim and performed two prostrations (ofSahw) while sitting and then finished the Salat with Taslim.

(Hadith No. 1224, Book of As-Sahw, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2).

This hadith tells us that if we forget to pray At-Tahhiyat in second raka’at of any prayer consisting of more than two raka’at (i.e. Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib or Isha), we should do Sujood Sahw in last raka’at before finishing the prayer with Taslim.

On similar lines, if someone forgets a whole raka’at or more than a raka’at, then again Sujood Sahw has to be performed. Refer to following hadith:

Narrated Shu’bah from Sa’d bin Ibrahim, that he heard Abu Salamah bin Abdur-Rahman, from Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) prayed Zuhr and said Taslim after two raka’at. It was said to him: Has the prayer been shortened? So, he prayed two raka’at, then prostrated twice.

(Hadith No. 1014, Book of Salat, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 1).

In other similar narrations it is mentioned that he performed prostrations after Taslim.

2. If we pray additional raka’at in a Salat

Narrated Abdullah (RA): Once Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) offered five raka’at in Zuhr prayer, and somebody asked him whether there was some increase in As-Salat. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “What is that?” He said, “You have offered five raka’at.” So, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) performed two prostrations (of Sahw) after Taslim.

(Hadith No. 1226, Book of As-Sahw, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2).

This narration tells us that the Prophet (PBUH) performed Sujood Sahw in this case after Taslim. The reason is simple, by the time he came to know that he has prayed additional raka’at, he had completed his prayer. So he performed Sujood Sahw as soon as he came to know about his forgetfulness.

3. What to do when in doubt about how many raka’at we have prayed while in Salat?

Forgetfulness is a normal thing which can happen with any human being. Shaitan leaves no stone unturned to keep our attentions diverted and distracted from good deeds. This is also one of those efforts of Shaitan, and a Muslim is supposed to be well versed with the technique of combating these tactics ofShaitan.

If during a prayer any of us forgets which number of raka’at is he/she is praying (or how many raka’at he/she has completed by that time), then he/she is supposed to act according to following advice from our beloved Prophet (PBUH):

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “If one of you is unsure when in prayer and does not know how many (raka’at) he has prayed, whether it is three or four, let him ignore what is uncertain and proceed on the basis of what is certain. Then let him prostrate twice before saying the Taslim. Then if he has prayed five (raka’at) that will make his prayer even; and if he has prayed it properly with four (raka’at), it will annoy theShaitan.”

(Hadith No. 1272 (571), Chapters on Masajid & Places of Prayer, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2; Hadith No. 1204, Book of Salat, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 1).

Therefore, in case of doubt, one should act upon whatever is certain. For example, if one is not sure how many raka’at he has performed, two or three and four or five, he should take the lesser number as the basis. Based on the number, he should proceed to perform the remaining raka’at and complete the prayer by performing two prostrations (of Sahw).

4. Sujood Sahw is to be done before Taslim or after Taslim?

After going through all the narrations mentioned above, we come across two scenarios: in one case we come to know that Rasool-Allah (PBUH) performed two prostrations before Taslim, while in other case he performed two prostrations after Taslim. Although, I see no point of confusion, still different views prevail about whether one should perform Sujood Sahw before or after Taslim?

Imam Shafi’s view is that the prostrations should be performed before Taslim. However, this view cannot be made universal as there are narrations which prove that the Prophet (PBUH) performed it after Taslimas well.

According to Imam Ahmad, whatever is reported from the Prophet (PBUH) about the prostrations for As-Sahw, is to be acted upon. It can be before Taslim or after Taslim, depending upon the cases as done by our beloved Prophet (PBUH). In cases where it is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) performed Sujood Sahw before Taslim, we should follow that way. For cases where it is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) performed Sujood Sahw after Taslim, we have to follow that way. In cases where nothing is reported about, then two prostrations should be followed before Taslim.

And I am more comfortable with second opinion.

5. Sujood Sahw is accompanied by Takbir.

If we revert back to the hadith mentioned in Section 1, we see that there is mention of Takbir (saying Allah-o-Akbar). Therefore, Takbir is to be said before performing Sujood Sahw.

6. Tashahhud is not recited after performing Sujood Sahw.

It is mentioned on authority of Qatada in Chapter 4, Book of As-Sahw, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2 thatTashahhud (i.e. saying At-tahhiyat and Ash-hadu an la ilaha illallah….) is not to be recited after prostrations of Sahw.

7. Sujood Sahw should be performed for Nawafil prayers also.

It is mentioned in Chapter 7, Book of As-Sahw, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2 that Ibn Abbas (RA) used to perform two prostrations (of Sahw) after Witr prayers. Therefore, Sujood Sahw should be performed if we commit an error during Nawafil prayers too.

8. How many prostrations are to be performed for forgetfulness?

No. of prostrations for forgetfulness are two. Some schools of thoughts state that only one prostration is done for forgetfulness. However, almost all the narrations regarding the Prophet’s (PBUH) action in this context refers to two prostrations (refer to all narrations mentioned in this discussion). Hence, two prostrations are to be performed.

9. It is wrong to say that Sujood Sahw cannot be performed if the person has talked after Salat.

Some schools of thoughts are of the view that Sujood Sahw can be performed only till we have not talked after Salat. This is not correct, as several of the narrations mentioned above (in Section 1 & Section 2) tell us that Rasool-Allah (PBUH) was reminded by others of his forgetfulness after he had completed his Salatand he talked to the persons who reminded him, confirmed his forgetfulness and then performed Sujood Sahw. Therefore, one is allowed to perform prostrations of forgetfulness even if he/she has talked after Salat.

Concluding remarks

To err is human. Therefore, it is natural that one may make mistakes; it can happen during Salat too. However, as discussed above, a Muslim should be well versed about how to amend his/her mistake during a prayer so as not to let the prayer be affected. We have discussed the actions of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) which all of are supposed to follow.

Remember, Sujood Sahw compensates for minor mistakes / errors / forgetfulness, like those mentioned in different narrations above. Bigger mistakes (like not reciting Surah Fatiha, or starting pray without Wudu etc.) should not be (or rather cannot be) compensated by Sujood Sahw.

Also, more than one error during a prayer does not require additional prostrations. One set of prostrations for forgetfulness is enough.

So, next time, when anyone of us commit any mistake (among those mentioned above), then he/she should not worry. Rather remember the procedure(s) for Sujood Sahw for each case and be assured.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.