In Arabic the word “Sutra” means something that hides, covers or protects. In islamic prayer a person who prays must always be aware that no one passes infront of him/her.

This is from the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah where he states that it is better for one of you to wait 70 autumns (years) waiting for someone to finish his prayers than cross infront of him.

He also said, (peace be upon him) that if someone tries to walk infront of you during prayer that you should stop him, if he tries again then you should stop him, if he tries again then you should fight him.

So its a pretty big deal that during prayer you don’t cross in front of a person praying. So the solutions are simple. Pray in front of a pillar at the mosque as the Prophet of Allah peace be upon him used to do. Or pray in front of a wall… You can pray infront of a chair, or even use a person as a sutra if they won’t be moving any time soon (in your assessment).

Now during Salat Jama’a (congregational prayer) the laws change so that the sutra is no longer in front of you, but rather everyone’s sutra is relocated to that of the sutra of the imam. Which means that it is the imam’s responsibility to keep anything from walking immediately infront of him.

If you see someone praying in the middle of the mosque … with no sutra… and he’s not in the front lines… his sutra zone does not extend infinitely in front of him. Rather his sutra ends where his forehead would rest in Sujuud. So there are limitations to where this no-walk-zone is. Having said that .. it is also very wrong to pray in the middle of the mosque without a sutra… the Prophet of Allah has urged us to try to be in the first lines of prayer and to have some sort of barrier indicating where someone should not walk.

This also goes for those who pray at the entrances of a Masjid. You should not do that so as not to hinder other worshipers and so as not to make it hard for yourself and them to respect the sutra.

And Allah Knows Best

October 5, 2010