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Insights into sadl

August 10, 2011


wa-Sallallāhu ‘alā habībiHi’l-Mustafā wa-‘alā Ālihi wa-sahbihi manārāti’l-hudā

Sometimes ago, a dear friend solicited me to pen something on the juristic controversy between praying with the hands let loose on one's sides, what is technically termed sadl, and performing salāt with the hands folded upon one another (qabd).
I resisted, because this has become another sterile and time-consuming diatribe on which rivers of ink have lately been spent in the name of "uniting Muslims on a single position", when in fact diversity is a Prophetically endorsed richness so long as each position leans on acceptable proofs, and this rash solicitude to enforce uniformity is, naturally, a further contributor to the schismatic discord among Mālikis and Muslims.

I want however to share a rare gem on this aspect, authored by one of the foremost Darqāwah of modern times: Sidi Muhammad al-Marūn. His two most important teachers were a) Mawlāy 'Abdur-Rahmān, the son of Mawlāy at-Tayyib and the grandson of Mawlāy al-‘Arabī ad-Darqāwī, the founder of the Darqāwi tarīqah (He is the author of the famous letters, while his teacher was 'Alī al-Jamal from Fez, whose discourses were collected by some disciple of his in an untitled book, which received in English the translation of “The Meaning of Man”); and b) Shaykh Ahmad al-Khumsī.
Sidi Muhammad al-Marūn’s crowning achievement as a writer was his masterful commentary on the Mashīshiyyah prayer of Imām ash-Shādhilī’s teacher, 'Abdus-Salaam b. Mashīsh, called “Shumūs al-Anwār wa-Ma`ādin al-Asrār” (“The Suns of Lights and the Precious Metals of Secrets”).
In the custom of Sufi man-to-man transmission, he did, however, bequeath a scattered array of verbalized treasures in the form of aphorisms, special invocations, epistles, public lectures, discourses, etc.

In one of his informal speeches, he had this to say on the issue of the sadl and the qabd [He died in 1996 AH, 15 years ago, while both styles were followed in Morocco, and debate on the matter had been raging for some time alrwady]:
“Imām Mālik found the people of al-Madīnah praying with their hands loose on their sides, omitting mention of the basmalah at the commencement of the prayer, and refraining from uttering the isti`ādhah audibly at the outset of the salāt.
The Prophet, our master Muhammad, on him be the prayer of blessing and the salutation of peace, used to pray with the hands let loose on his sides (= with sadl). When he traveled to Greater Syria, he found the priests, the rabbis and the monks offering their prayers with their hands folded up. Jibrīl thus came and taught him how to fold his hands in prayer in accordance with what used to be the sunnah or established practice of the Prophets and Messengers before him. Allah had singled out the Prophets and Messengers by three things: 1) Hastening to break the fast; 2) Delaying the partaking of the pre-dawn meal when fasting; 3) Placing their right hands over their left ones in the prayer. Accordingly, he, may the greeting of peace be upon him, folded his hands so as to straighten his followers’ thoughts while praying. In that period of the Prophethood, therefore, the Companions witnessed the mode of qabd in the salāt.
When the time of our master Muhammad's death approached, on him be the salutation of peace, as it was 17 months and 7 days prior to his appointed time, he prayed again with the hands loose on the sides. He passed away while he performed the salāt in the mode of the sadl, Jibrīl having never parted company with him in those last 17 months and 7 days of his life.

We asked the shaykh, may Allah be pleased with him, that is, Mawlāy 'Abdur-Rahmān b. Mawlāy at-Tayyib b. Mawlāy al-‘Arabī ad-Darqāwī, about praying with the hands loose and folded (sadl and qabd), and he replied as follows: ‘No report has been established from either my father or my grandfather, from Sidi 'Alī al-Jamal or the latter’s teachers and predecessors in the path, all the way to ash-Shādhilī and Ibn Mashīsh and from the latter up to our master Muhammad [Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam], that any one of them prayed with his hands folded. No such form of praying has been established in this whole chain of instruction, nay, not even in respect of the other chains of spiritual instruction, inclusive of Mawlāy ‘Abdu’l-Qādir al-Jīlānī, Sidi Ahmad b. Nāsir and Sidi Ahmad at-Tījānī: It has not been established from any one of them that he prayed with his hands folded’".

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