A sutrah (Arabic: سترة lit., "screen, cover") is an object used by a person performing salat as a barrier between himself and one passing in front of him. The person praying should be positioned at less than or equal to three forearms' length away from the Sutrah. The Sutrah’s height must be no less than one forearm's length (i.e. the height of the rear end of a camel's saddle), whereas its width has no stipulated size. The Sutrah is compulsory for anyone performing salat (unless a Sutrah cannot be found after searching).
While it is apparent that it might appear like the performer is praying to the object in front of him/her, it's not absolutely necessary while praying. It can be substituted by facing a wall or simply blocking the way of a passer with a hand. It is also forbidden for someone to pass in-between a person praying and his Sutrah, or to pass closer than 3 forearms' length to the person who has no Sutrah in front of him (because 3 forearms' length is the furthest distance which one can stay away from a Sutrah). However, a person is allowed to pass between the rows of a congregational salat.
Sahl ibn Abu Hathmah narrated: إذا صلى أحدكم إلى سترة فليدن منها لا يقطع الشيطان عليه صلاته The Prophet said: When one of you prays facing a sutrah he should keep close to it, and not let the devil interrupt his prayer.
The Messenger of Allah said: لا تصل إلا إلى سترة، ولا تدع أحداً يمر بين يديك، فإن أبى فلتقاتله؛ فإن معه القرين Pray facing a sutrah, and let no one cross in front of you while praying. If he insists, then prevent him by force because he is accompanied by shaitan.
Ruling on Sutrah
The sutrah is a confirmed Sunnah (Sunnah mu’akkadah). The Prophet said: “When one of you prays, let him pray facing a sutrah, and let him draw close to it.” Narrated by Abu Dawood with a jayyid isnaad. When the Prophet travelled, he would take with him a short piece of wood and pray facing it.
With regard to that which invalidates the prayer, it is a donkey, a black dog, and an adult woman, because the Prophet said: “The prayer of a Muslim man is invalidated if he does not have in front of him something like the back of a saddle, by (the passage in front of him of) a woman, a donkey or a black dog.” Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh from the hadeeth of Abu Dharr . Muslim also narrated it from Abu Hurayrah, without mentioning the word black. The basic principle is that a general statement is to be interpreted in terms of the specific statement. In the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas it says “A woman who menstruates” i.e., an adult woman. The correct view is that which is indicated by the hadeeth: that these three invalidate the prayer.
With regard to the words of ‘Aa’ishah, they are her own opinion and conclusion. She said: “What a bad thing to liken us to donkeys and dogs.” She said that she used to lie in front of the Messenger of Allaah when he was praying, but that is not passing in front, because lying is not called passing . The Sunnah concerning that was not known to her, and the one who learns something is a proof against the one who is unaware of it. If a person prays facing someone who is opposite him, sitting or lying down, that does not affect him. Rather what invalidates the prayer is if it passes in front of him from one side to another, if the one who passes is front is one of the three mentioned and passes in front of him, or between him and the sutrah. If the female is young and has not reached the age of puberty, or the dog is not black, or something such as a camel or sheep and the like passes in front, then none of these invalidate the prayer. But it is prescribed for the one who is praying not to let anything pass in front of him, even if it does not invalidate the prayer, because of the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, which says that the Prophet said: “If one of you prays facing something that is screening him from the people, and someone wants to pass [directly] in front of him, let him push him away, and if he insists then let him fight him, for he is a devil.” Saheeh – agreed upon.
According to Hanafi Madhab, one's prayer will not be nullified if someone crosses one without sutrah.
- Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani. "The Prophet's Prayer From The Beginning To The End As Though You See It: The Sutrah, And The Obligation To Have One, (Section 2.6.)". Abdurrahman.org.
- Questions and Answers on the Sutrah, by Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 9, Hadith 473, 474, 477, 478, 480: Virtues of the Prayer Hall (Sutra of the Musalla)
- Bukhari, Book 2, Volume 15, Hadith 89, 90: The Two Festivals (Eids)
- Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 8, Hadith 373, 422: Prayers
- Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 4, Hadith 187: Ablutions
- Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 1011: The Book of Prayers
- Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 1008, 1009: The Book of Prayers
- Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 9, Hadith 485: Virtues of the Prayer Hall (Sutra of the Musalla)
- Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 9, Hadith 488, 489: Virtues of the Prayer Hall (Sutra of the Musalla)
- Muslim, Book 4, Hadith 1023: The Book of Prayers
- Sunan Abu Dawud :: Book 2 : Hadith 695
- Sahih Ibn Khuzaimah, Chapter: Salat, Hadith No. 793
- Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz (24/21, 22)
- Al Mabsut Vol. 1, page 191