Passing in front of the One Praying
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
There are many hadith which forbid anyone from passing or walking in front of a person who is praying unless he or she is behind a sutrah (object used as a screen), and the act is described as a major sin.
Busr ibn Sa’id says that Zaid ibn Khalid sent him to Abu Juhaim to ask him what he had heard from the Prophet, sallallahu alehi wasallam, concerning passing in front of someone who is praying. He said that the Messenger of Allah said: “If one knew [the sin] of passing in front of one who is praying, he would rather wait forty […] than to pass in front of him.” This is related by scholars.
Zaid ibn Khalid relates that the Messenger of Allah said: “If the one who passes in front of one who is praying knew what was upon him [of sin], it would be better for him to stand [and wait] for forty autumns than to pass in front of him.” This is related by al-Bazzar with a sahih chain.
It is desirable for the one who is praying to take a Sutrah (some sort of partition) and to be close enough to it to prevent others from passing in front of him, but taking a Sutrah becomes obligatory if he fears the passing of others and he has to prevent any human being or animal from passing in front of him.
According to the dominate opinion among scholars, it is Haram to pass in front of the one who is performing obligatory/optional prayer whether there is a Sutrah or not, whether one can find an alternative or not.
What happens in al-Masjid al-Haraam, however, is excused according to the scholars because it is not possible to avoid that in al-Masjid al-Haraam due to the crowding, especially at the time of Hajj. This is one of the things that is excused in al-Masjid al-Haraam and is exempt from the general meaning of the hadeeth. In addition, what happens of women who are doing tawaaf passing in front of people praying in al-Masjid al-Haraam does not affect them and their prayers are valid, whether naafil or obligatory. This is the correct scholarly view quoted from Fataawa al-Shaykh Baaz (17/152).
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (Radi allahu anhu) was asked: I have found a proven hadeeth which says: If one of you is praying and a donkey, black dog or woman passes in front of him, his prayer is invalid. If the text of the hadeeth is saheeh, what is your opinion about those who pray in al-Haram al-Shareef with women passing in front of them as they do tawaaf?
He replied: The hadith is saheeh. The Prophet (sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “A Muslim’s prayer is invalidated if there is nothing in front of him the height of the back of a saddle, by a woman, a donkey and a black dog.” Narrated by Imam Muslim in his Saheeh. If a black dog, a donkey or a woman passes in front of a worshipper, or between him and his sutrah each of them invalidates his prayer. This is how it was narrated in the hadith from the Prophet (sallallahu alehi wasallam) and it is sounder than the opinions of the scholars. There is a difference of opinion among the scholars, however, including those who interpreted it as meaning that it is the reward or the completeness of the prayer that is affected.
This is the principle in the matter since it is difficult to take a Sutrah sometimes in Al-Haram mosque and it is difficult to avoid passing in front of a praying person when it is overcrowded during the season of Hajj or Ramadhan.
A number of scholars of Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) have made an expiation for prayer in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah from this ruling, permitting people to pass in front of the worshippers there, based on the narration of Kathir bin Kathir Al-Muttalib, from his father and from his grandfather, who said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alehi wasallam) praying opposite the stone and the people were passing in front of him, and in another narration from Al-Muttalib, it was reported that he said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alehi wasallam) when he had completed his seven (circuits of the Kabah) go towards the corner which was between him and the covered passage and pray his two Raka’ats at the edge of the place where the people were making Tawaf and there was no one between him and the Tawaf. Although the chain of narration for this Hadith is weak, it supports what has been narrated in the traditions, and the general meanings of the evidences for lifting of difficulties since preventing a person passing in front of a worshipper in the Sacred Mosque causes difficulty and hardship in most cases.
Ibn Qudaamah (Radi allahu anhu) said in al-Mughni (2/40): There is nothing wrong with praying in Makkah without a sutrah. That was narrated from Ibn al-Zubayr, ‘Ata’ and Mujaahid. Al-Athram said: It was said to Ahmad: What if a man is praying in Makkah and does not use anything as a sutrah? He said: It was narrated from the Prophet (sallallahu alehi wasallam) that he prayed with no sutrah between him and the tawaf area. Ahmad said: Because Makkah is not like anywhere else, as if Makkah is special.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (Radi allahu anhu) was asked: What is the ruling on men and women passing in front of people who are praying, especially in the Haram, and does it invalidate their prayers?
He replied: As for men (walking in front of one) they do not invalidate the prayer, but one should try to stop them. As for woman, an adult woman does invalidate the prayer if she walks between you and your sutrah, or between you and the place where you prostrate, if you do not have a sutrah, whether that is in the Haram or elsewhere. But if a person cannot find any place to pray except a place where people walk, such as by the doors, then as a case of necessity it does not invalidate his prayer because if he tried to stop the people from walking in front of him he would be moving too much in his prayer and would spoil it.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allah’s Assistance and Guidance, and whatever written of error is of me alone. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Allah knows best.