Assalamualaikum, can SS Mufti explain the advantages of praying in the first saf compared to other saf?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Praying in the first saf has a multitude of advantages and this is mentioned in several narrations. Among them is a hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لَوْ يَعْلَمُ النَّاسُ مَا فِي النِّدَاءِ وَالصَّفِّ الأَوَّلِ، ثُمَّ لَمْ يَجِدُوا إِلاَّ أَنْ يَسْتَهِمُوا عَلَيْهِ لاَسْتَهَمُوا
“If the people knew the reward for pronouncing the Adhan and for standing in the first row (in congregational prayers) and found no other way to get that except by drawing lots they would draw lots,”
Sahih al-Bukhari (615)
According to the above hadith, if people truly understand the great reward and advantages of praying in the first saf, surely, they would try their best to be able to pray in the first saf. And if there is no other way for them unless if they have to draw lots to determine who would be able to pray in the first saf, they would do so.
The following we share several advantages of praying in the first saf.
First: Allah SWT and the Angels Send Blessings and Salutations to Those Who Pray in the First Saf
In a narration from Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf RA he said, the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلاَئِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى الصَّفِّ الأَوَّلِ
“Allah and the angels send blessings upon the first row.”
Sunan Ibn Majah (999)
Imam al-Munawi Rahimahullah commented on the above hadith: Allah and His angels send blessings to them (those who pray in the first saf) by doing istighfar for them. Refer Faydh Al-Qadir, Al-Munawi.
Second: The Best and Prioritized Saf for Men is the First Saf
The above refers to a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
خَيْرُ صُفُوفِ الرِّجَالِ أَوَّلُهَا وَشَرُّهَا آخِرُهَا وَخَيْرُ صُفُوفِ النِّسَاءِ آخِرُهَا وَشَرُّهَا أَوَّلُهَا
"The best of the men's rows (in Salat) is the first row and the worst is the last; but the best of the woman's row is the last and the worst of their rows is the first."
Sahih Muslim (440)
In the above hadith, it is mentioned that the best saf for men is the first saf. The reason is, the first saf is for those who hasten towards goodness, being close to the imam, enabling them to hear the recitation of the imam clearly and undistracted from looking at the person in front of them.
What is meant by the worst saf for men and women is: the least rewarded and there are least advantages and furthest from what is set in syarak. While the meaning of the best of saf for men and women is: The most rewarded and advantages fulfilling the commandment in syarak.
Here we state, the advantages for the last saf for women is only applicable in a situation where the congregation consists of men and women, if there are only women in the congregation, then the best saf is the first saf and the worst saf is the last af again.
For women congregation, the last saf is the best for them when it involves men and women in the congregation because it distances them from mixing with men and preventing from looking at the men or listening to their conversations. See Syarah Al-Nawawi ‘Ala Sahih Muslim, Al-Nawawi (4/158).
To conclude, we advise us all as the Muslim ummah to always compete in doing goodness and praying in the first saf. Avoid letting the saf in front of us from being empty or slowly being filled but we should be the ones to quickly fill them up. The reason is, there are great rewards for it.
Lastly, may Allah SWT give us the true understanding in practising our religion. Amin.