Questions of Fiqh: closing the eyes during Salah
Salah, the second of the five pillars of Islam, is a holy rite prescribed in the Holy Quran and as a revert from Christianity, some of the things that stood out to me most about the religion were the detailed instructions concerning how, when and what to pray. My parents had made sure that I’d learned The Lord’s Prayer and had always taught me to pray from my heart; and Catholic School had taught me to offer memorized prayers according to Catholic theology, but no one had ever provided me with the depths of guidance that is included within the Islamic teachings about prayer.
There are numerous Surahs of the Holy Quran that address Salah, but a few that stand out to me when considering the topic of closing the eyes during prayer are:
Surah Al Mu’minun 1:2 which states:
Indeed successful are those believers who are humble in their Salah (prayers) . . .
And Surah Al Baqarah 2:238 that declares:
Guard your Salah (obligatory regular prayers) especially the middle Salah and stand up with true devotion to Allah.
Salah is a very personal and direct expression of worship between the believer and The Creator, however, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), provided guidelines for the Muslims to follow that were meant as a help. There are varying views among scholars about closing the eyes during Salah.
According to some scholars, it is something detested for one to close eyes while in prayer but some other scholars say that it is not disliked. The hadith denoting that it is disliked is not authentic. Ibn Al-Qayyem states: “If opening the eyes does not make the person distracted from his prayer, then there is no harm in opening them. However, if one attains submissiveness and humbleness when closing his eyes, then it is recommended to close them, for this enables the person to gain the main aim of prayer.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid explains, however:
The scholars are agreed that it is makrooh to close the eyes for no reason when praying. The author of al-Rawd stated that it is makrooh because this is what the Jews do. (al-Rawd al-Murabba’, 1/95). The authors of Manaar al-Sabeel and al-Kaafi stated likewise, and added that it looks as if the person is asleep. (Manaar al-Sabeel, 1/66; al-Kaafi, 1/285). The author of al-Iqnaa’stated that it is makrooh unless there is a reason for doing so, such as fear of seeing something one should not be looking at whilst praying, such as seeing one’s concubine or wife, or a non-mahram woman, naked. (al-Iqnaa’, 1/127; al-Mughni, 2/30). The author of al-Mughni said likewise.
The author of Tuhfat al-Mulook said that it is makrooh without discussing the ruling when there is a need to do it. (Tuhfat al-Mulook, 1/84). Al-Kaasaani said: it is makrooh because it goes against the Sunnah, which is to focus the gaze on the place of prostration, and because all of a person’s faculties have a role to play in worship, including the eyes. (Badaa’i’ al-Sanaa’i’, 1/503). The author of Maraaqi al-Falaah stated that it is makrooh unless done for a purpose. He said, closing the eyes may be preferable to looking in some cases (Maraaqi al-Falaah, 1/343).
Imaam al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salaam said in his fatwas that it is permissible when necessary, if that helps the worshiper to focus more fully on his prayer. Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’aad that if a man can focus more fully on his prayer by opening his eyes, then it is better to do so. If he can focus more fully by closing his eyes because there are things that may distract him from his prayer, such as adornments and decorations, then it is not makrooh at all and the view that in this case it is mustahabb for him to close his eyes is closer to the aims and principles of sharee’ah than saying that it is makrooh. (Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/283).
Truly, it is Allah Who knows Best.