Does one place & hold the hands on the chest, or leave the hands down, during prayers?


What is the ruling with respect to placing and holding of the hands on the chest compared with leaving the hands straight down during prayers?


Differences between Shia & Sunni prayers

The followers of the Ahlul Bayt i.e. the Shia Ithna Asheri, all pray with their hands by their side. With the exception of the Sunni Maliki sect who pray like the Shias in this regard, the followers of the other three Sunni sects pray with their hands folded. Their variations are below[1]:

1) The Hanafis say that the males should place their right hand over the left and place them below the navel and the females should put their hands on the chest.

2) The Hanbalis are of the view that both the males and the females should put their right palms on the back of their left hands and place them below the navel.

3) The Shafis say that both the males and the females should place their right palms on the back of their left hands and place them above the navel but below the chest

How did the Prophet say his prayer?

There is no evidence of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) praying with his hands folded or teaching anyone to pray as such. We do find reports from the books of the Sunnis describing his way of prayer:[2]

‘’Maaz narrates that when the Prophet (s) would stand for Salat, he would raise both hands to his ears, and after saying Takbeer would then drop his hands”.

How did the Imams of the AhlulBayt pray?

The Imams of Ahlul Bayt prayed with their hands by their sides and even taught their companions such. Below is one example of Imam Sadiq (as) whilst teaching his companion Hammad how to pray correctly:[3]

Sheikh Muhammad Ya’qoob Kulaini and Sheikh Sadooq state:

“Our Master turned his face towards the Ka’ba. Completely removed any contact between his hands and placed his hands on his thighs, closed his fingers and placed his feet near to each other.”


Whilst there is sufficient evidence to prove the Prophetic prayer, there is no evidence to show that the Prophet prayed with his hands folded.  It is of popular opinion that folding hands during prayer was something that was introduced after the demise of the Prophet.

[1] Al-fiqa al-Mazahib al-Arba’a, page 399-400, compiled by Allama Abdul Rehman Al-Jazeeri, published by Ulema Academy, Department of Auqaaf, Punjab

[2]Ibn Hajr Asqalani wrote in ‘Talkhees al-Habeer fee Takhreej Ahadeeth’ Volume 1 page 333, Bab Sifat al Salat

[3] Man la Yuhdhirah al-Faqeeh, volume 1, page 166, published in Karachi.

Answered by: ATS Admin
Certified by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei