Where’s your evidence ak-ee?

I went to perform salat al-Maghrib at our local masjid today. I noticed a Muslim man of West Indian origin pointing and chatting to some of the members of our community, it seemed that he was making a few points about certain things. I took very little notice of him but my Madhhabi-sense was tingling: “I bet he is a Salafi”. Anyway the iqama was read and we started to form the lines for the prayer, when I again noticed this same man instructing those next to him to join their feet to his and he seemed to make a big point of it.After the prayers, he pulled over one of the brothers and started to ask why people weren’t standing feet to feet, this was cue for me to join the fray. After a tiring week back at work I guess I was not my usual placid self, I am not prone to getting angry, but I have heard Wahhabis use this argument countless times and it annoys me to hear it again and again and to explain it again and again. The brother told us he was from High Wycombe and a “student” of the new Jordanian Imam at the WISE Centre there.

He started his conversation with me by saying “Akee, I see a lot of things here that I aint never seen before, I want to see evidence for what’s going on here” I asked him what he was talking about and he said “like people not standing shoulder to shoulder ankle to ankle”, I asked him for his evidence (knowing full well what it was) he replied “it’s in a hadeeth akee”, “what hadith?” I asked, “which collection?” I pressed. He couldn’t tell me as he didn’t know. I then said “You come here asking for evidence and proof and yet you offer none yourself”, “but it is in the hadeeth akee” he countered, I conceded, to see where he was going with his argument (again, knowing full well where he was taking this). He started demonstrating physically what the hadith meant and I noticed that he was not actually standing ankle to ankle but toe to toe. I pointed out that in actual fact what the hadith meant was not jam your foot or your ankle against the person next to you, rather you use the ankle as a guide to straighten the lines in the ranks and the hadith certainly doesn’t say anything about joining feet. I also pointed out to him that if he stood next to someone much taller than himself he would not actually be standing shoulder to shoulder but shoulder to arm. I then explained that in light of this, the hadith is not meant to be taken totally literally, since then the taller person would have to crouch or bend his knees to bring his shoulders to the lever of the shorter person. His reply was “then you would go and stand next to someone your own height”! How the heck he arrived at that conclusion I will never know, but that is certainly a new one on me! Do Salafis send converts to some training school to rehearse these arguments because the amount of times I have heard this it almost seems scripted.

What struck me most was when I asked him if he knew what the integrals of prayer were and what their rankings were such as Fardh, Wajib, Sunnah etc he had no idea! If you don’t know the integrals of salat then your salat is defective in the first place and there is little point arguing over the position of your feet; he didn’t seem to be concerned.

We argued about a few other things and it was clear to me that this brother was very ignorant of fiqh and scholarly difference as well as history of Islamic cultures, may Allah guide him and me. At the end it boiled down to him accusing me of racism and that the only reason I was arguing with against him was that he was black! SubhanAllah!