Ibn Umar (RA) said: "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Never do your Salaah but towards a sutrah and never let anyone pass in front of you [while doing Salaah] even if you had to fight with him for Shaytaan accompanies him. " [Muslim]
Abu Saeed AI-Khudree (RA) said: "Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: When you do your salaah, do it towards a sutrah and come close to it. And never let anyone pass between you and your sutrah even if you have to fight him for the Devil is with him. " [Abu Dawud]
In another narration, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: for the Devil passes between it [the sutrah] and him [the praying Muslim).
Sahl Ibn Abee Hathmah (RA) related that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: When you do your salaah towards a Sutrah, come close to it and never give a chance for Shaytaan to render it invalid. [Abu Dawud]
Commenting on Abu Saeeds narration, Ash- Shawkaanee said: It states the obligation of doing salaah towards a sutrah. Most of the ahaadeeth affirm this obligation to which we must adhere unless there are evidences that may shift the Prophets order from being an obligation to a recommendation. As for the Prophets hadeeth: Those who pass in front of you shall not harm you [i.e. your Salaah]" it must not be considered as one of the circumstantial evidences for avoiding whatever that could render ones Salaah invalid or lessens its rewards is an obligation.
The sutrah protects ones salaah from being invalid in case a [grown up] woman, a donkey or a black dog passes in front of him/her - as is narrated in one of the ahaadeeth - and also prevents those who want to pass in front of him! Her from doing so for the sutrahs great importance, the righteous predecessors were keen to perform their Salaah towards it and urged other Muslims to do the same and condemned those who did the opposite. Umar (RA) gives us a great example.
Qurrah Ibn Iyaas said: Umar saw me performing Salaah between two poles. He took hold of me and directed me towards a sutrah [one of the poles] and then said:
"Do your salaah towards it. [Bukhaaree]
Commenting on this event, AI-Haafidh Ibn Hajar said: "Umar intended to teach Ibn Iyaas that he should do his Salaah towards a sutrah. Ibn Umar said: When you intend to perform your salaah, do it towards a sutrah and come close to it lest Shaytaan passes in front of you. [AI-Musannaf]
Ibn Mas ud (RA) said: Four are of the characters of the hard - hearted people: to do ones Salaah without taking a sutrah ... or to hear the Athaan and not attending the congregational Salaah in the mosque. [AI-Musannaf] Pay heed, dear Muslim brother - may Allaah guide me and you to the right path - to the series of the Prophets orders of the necessity of taking a sutrah in salaah. Verily, obeying his orders leads to obeying Allaah for he received these rulings through the revelation. And reflect on the companions care to follow them - as did the second great Caliph Umar (RA) and Ibn Mosud (RA) who considered abandoning it as one of the serious sins that equals abandoning the congregational Salaah.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited