Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

Questions Concerning Prayer

Assalaam u alaykum Wr Wb
I hope that you are all in the best of health inshaAllah.
I have read much information on the prayer of men and women in that it differs for both in terms of physical action. Please may I ask as to whether there really is any difference in a man and woman's prayer in terms of physical actions. If so, how?
May I also ask what the Hanbali point of view is on raising the finger during tashahhud. I recall reading a few years ago that the reason we raise our finger is because, on one occasion, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was praying and shaytaan came to him to disturb him. At this point, the Prophet (pbuh) raised his finger. Is there any basis to this? I would appreciate any clarification on this issue. Secondly, should the right index finger be raised throughout the whole tashahhud or during a specific point? If we made a mistake and have been doing this incorrectly throughout our lives, would this be one of the factors that invalidate the prayer?
Lastly, I recently sustained an ankle injury and was unable to make sujood properly although I tried my best to have both of my toes touching the ground properly; I was also unable to sit properly between the two sujoods and after the 2nd and 4th sujoods of prayer. Will I have to repeat these prayers?
JazakAllah Khayran Katheeran Kabeeran for your time and help
Wa Salaam

wa `alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

1. Differences Between The Way Men And Women Pray

Yes, there are minor differences between the physical actions of a man's prayer in comparison to a woman's prayer. Al-Hajjawi and Al-Buhuti write that
A woman prays like a man except that she bunches herself together and sits with her legs slightly slid underneath her to her right. (b: If there is a non-mahram male who can hear her, it is obligatory for her to conceal her recitation so that only she hears it.) (Al-Raud al-murbi`, p74)
M ar`i bin Yusuf writes the same, though a bit clearer and with a few additional details
Women are like men in all that was previously mention--even concerning raising the hands. However, she bunches herself together when bowing and prostrating and does not unbunch herself [like a man]; she sits with her legs slightly slid underneath her on the right--and this is best--or cross-legged; and she must conceal her recitation when non-marhman men hear it, and otherwise there is no harm in making it audible. (Ghayat al-muntaha, 1.132-33)
P lease note that the only obligatory difference concerns recitation, and that even though it would be unlawful for a woman to raise her recitation where non-mahram men hear it, the prayer would still be valid. The other differences fall under the category of recommended actions during prayer.

The general topic of general related differences associated to prayer is found in hadith literature known as the musannafat. The musannafat include accounts from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), his Companions (Allah be pleased with them), and the first few generations of Successors. The discussion is in the Musannaf of Abu Bakr `Abd al-Razzaq bin Hammam al-San`ani right before the chapter on Friday Prayer, or more precisely 3.126-51.

And Allah knows best.

2. The Finger During The Tashahhud

The issue of what should be done with the finger has been mentioned at least once in previous messages. Members of the group should use the group's home-page to search through the archives, especially these days with my slow response time. The most recent message on the topic is dated Fri, 24 Jan 2003 01:02:28 +0200 with a topic of [hanbali] Re: Moving the finger in Salah, with the answer text being
The opinion that my sheikh (may Allah preserve him) taught me and that he practices himself is that the finger is raised whenever the Majestic Name "Allah" is mentioned. My sheikh says that this should be done outside of prayer, as well.
Another opinion is that the finger simply remains pointed the entire time, without moving.

Ibn Muflih gives a detailed list of the different ways of doing this in Al-Furu` (1:441).
And Allah knows best,
I did not find anything related to the reason for why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) raised his noble finger. The sources I looked in tend to restrict themselves to legal evidence, such as Al-Mutaqa min al-akhbar, Tuhfat al-muhtaj ila dalil al-minhaj, Bulugh al-maram, Al-Tajj al-jami` li-l-usul. My search was not exhaustive.

However, I did find in Tuhfat al-muhtaj the following
Ibn `Omar (Allah be pleased with him and his father) said that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Pointing with the finger is more severe [ashadd] to Satan than iron."

And [Ibn `Omar (Allah be pleased with him and his father) said that] the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, " is a mudhri`ah to Satan."

Ibn Al-Sukn mentioned them in his Sihah in this [same] chapter. (Tuhfat al-muhtah, 2.325)
T he editor of Tuhfat al-muhtaj mentions that Ahmad mentioned the first hadith in the Musnad (2.119) and that Al-Bazar also mentioned it (1.272). Al-Bayhaqi mentioned them both (2.132), pointing out Al-Waqidi--a narrator for his chain to both hadiths--is weak. Some later scholars considered the hadith to have a rigorously authenticated chain (Al-Albani, Sifat al-salah, p151; Ahmad Shakir, Takhrij al-musnad, 8.194). Al-Ruyani considered it well-authenticated (Musnad al-ruyani, 2.249). The editor of the book gave the details for why Imam Al-Bayhaqi considering it weak but did not give details for why Sheikh Ahmad Shakir and Al-Albani said otherwise. (Tuhfat al-muhtah, 2.325 fn 3-4)

Moving or not-moving the finger is not an integral or obligatory part of the prayer as far as I know. The validity of one's prayer is not determined by whether or not it is performed, nor how.

And Allah knows best.

3. Sajdah and Sitting

It is highly unlikely that you will need to make up missed prayers. The minimal requirements of sajhad and sitting for completely healthy people are as follows:
  • The most complete way to make sajdah is to supporting one's weight on the seven body parts: the forehead, nose, palms, knees, and the tips of the toes. The minimal requirement is to support one's weight on just a portion of the parts, so putting the tops of the feet or the edge of the hand suffices. (see Nail al-ma'arib, 1.138)
  • The preferred way for men to sit is iftirash, whish is sitting with the left foot spread below while raising his right. But the minimal requirement is just to sit, even by sliding one's legs off to the right or left, or sitting cross-legged. (see ibid)
T his is how things are when the person is completely healthy. If you have questions, feel free to email with more details.

And Allah knows best.

I hope that your recovery is swift and complete.

wa al-salamu `alaykum