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In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The Legal Ruling on Clapping

Dr.Ahmad Najeeb

What is ruling on men clapping? Is it considered an imitation of the disbelievers?
Seeking the help of Almighty Allah, I say:
Those who have judged men clapping as detestable or forbidden have considered it to be an imitation of women; because they are commanded to clap when something needs to be corrected in prayer. Some scholars also consider it as an imitation of the polytheists who used to clap in their prayers at the Sacred House.
        Those who consider clapping to be an imitation of women have depended on the Sunnah to prove that. They have also quoted narrations from the Sunnah regarding the prohibition of imitating women and cursing those who do so.
  The evidence that clapping is an action of women is the Sahh hadth narrated by Sahl Ibn Sa`d As-S`id, who said: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) went to the clan of Ban `Amr Ibn `Awf to make peace between them. It was time for prayer so the Mu'adhdhin (caller) came to Ab Bakr and asked him, "Will you lead the people in prayer so I may do the second call for prayer?" He agreed. Thus, Ab Bakr led the prayer. Thereupon, Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) came while people were praying, so he joined the prayer and stood in the line. Ab Bakr did not turn around while praying, but when the people continued to clap he turned around. However, the Prophet (peace be upon him) indicated to him to stay in his place. Hence, Ab Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) raised his hands and praised Allah the Almighty for what Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) had commanded him to do. Then he (Ab Bakr) retreated until he straightened up the line. Therefore, Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) stepped forward and led the prayer. When he (peace be upon him) finished the prayer, he asked (Ab Bakr), "What prevented you from staying in your place when I commanded you to do so?" Ab Bakr replied, "It was not for Ibn Ab Quhfah to lead the prayer in front of Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him). Then Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "Why did you clap so much? Whoever doubts something in prayer should glorify Allah the Almighty (say subhna Allh), because if he says subhna Allh, attention will be paid to him. Indeed, clapping is for women."
The apparent meaning of this hadth is that clapping is restricted to women. Ash-Shawkn said in his book Nayl Al-Awtr: "The Prophet's saying, 'Indeed, clapping is for women,' is proof that men are absolutely prevented from clapping.
   However, it appears that the permission given to women to clap is restricted to prayer, but outside the prayer, they are the same as men in this ruling. Also, the forbiddance to clap outside prayer requires particular proof, and Allah knows best.
  Those who consider clapping an imitation of the polytheists' prayer at the Sacred House have depended on the verse in which Allah the Almighty says, "And their prayer at the House was not except whistling and handclapping. So taste the punishment for what you disbelieved." [Al-Anfl: 35].
 However, I doubt that it is correct to consider clapping an imitation of what the polytheists used to do in their prayer at the Sacred house. This is because imitating them requires an intention. In addition, there are forms of clapping done by people who do not know that the people of Al-Jhiliyyah[1]  used to clap at the Sacred House. Therefore, how can we say they are imitating the polytheists while nothing of the sort came to their minds?
For that reason, it should be understood that judging something is the result of imagining it. In addition, since the forms of clapping differ in accordance with the intentions of those who clap and their state, the ruling on this issue differs from one case to another, as follows:
First, taking clapping as an act of worship or clapping during the performance of a legitimate act of worship is totally forbidden. This is because it is considered an imitation of the disbelievers in their worship; as well as being an innovation in religion.
It is known that clapping is common in innovated sessions of commemoration by extremist Sufs. Scholars have dispraised this kind of clapping, and reproached those who do it. Furthermore, they have strongly denied people from doing so, whether with the palm of the hand, the backs of the hands or through putting the palm of the hand on the back of the other hand and vice versa.
 Al-`Izz Ibn `Abdus-Salm, the sultan of the scholars (may Allah have mercy on him) said, "Whoever fears Allah the Almighty and realizes that He should be Exalted is not to dance or clap. Such things are only done by the one who is foolish and ignorant. They can never be done by a rational, virtuous person. The proof that such people are ignorant is that Islamic Shar`ah has never referred to them in the Qur'n or Sunnah. Moreover, none of the prophets or the knowledgeable ones from among the followers of the prophets did such things. Indeed, this is only done by ignorant people to whom reality is confused with whims. Allah, Exalted be He, states, "And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things." The righteous predecessors and the late scholars never did anything like that.
Some people may do that or think it is a personal desire, not an act of piety that draws them nearer to his Lord. If they are people that others imitate and think they are doing so as a pious act, what an evil deed it is as they are making people think it is an act of piety. Indeed, it is one of the worst follies. [Qaw`id Al-Ahkm: 2/220, 221]
Second:  Clapping out of delight because something happened that caused joy and happiness is permissible or even recommended through rational and textual proofs. One may also clap to encourage those who have done a good thing. There is no proof that this is prohibited. However, one is obligated to abide by the rulings of Islamic Shar`ah; thus this kind of clapping is not permissible unless three conditions are fulfilled:
The first condition: The one who is clapping should not believe that it is legally recommended, because legal recommendation is based on textual proof. Thus, nothing should be said to be recommended unless there is proof for that.
The second condition: It should not be compared to a recommended act like Takbr[2] or Tasbh[3] (saying subhana Allah) when seeing or hearing a good thing. This is because comparing something to what is legitimate is a sign of innovation.
The third condition: When clapping one should not intend to imitate the disbelievers by approving of what they do, or preferring that to what is known to be done by Muslims in the same regard.
Note: A scholar has spoken about the forms of clapping. He differentiated between clapping using the two palms of the hands and clapping by using the palm of one hand and the back of the other.
In his book Al-Majm`, Imm An-Nawaw said, "Tasbh is recommendable for one to attract the attention of the Imam in prayer, if something occurs such as forgetfulness. It is also recommended to give permission to some one who wants to enter a house. Likewise, Tasbh is recommended to warn a blind man lest he might fall into a hole or to warn a heedless person, a child or someone who is attacked by an oppressor or a beast. It is recommended for a man to say Tasbh while a woman should clap. A woman should clap by striking the palm of the right hand on the back of the left hand or vice versa. She may also clap through striking the back of the right hand on the palm of the left hand or vice versa. As for striking the palms of the hands on one another, Ar-Rfi` said, 'It should not be done like that because it is playing. Besides, if a woman does that by way of playing while she knows it is forbidden; her prayer becomes invalid, even if it was just a little. This is because playing is contradictory to the actions of prayer." [1/196]
I say: "I do not know of any proof that differentiates between the forms of clapping, unless it is a way to avoid dispraise according to those who consider it playing. Scholars sought a reference for that in the Arabic language. Some of them maintained that striking the palm of a hand on the back of the other is called tasfh not tasfq (clapping), so the doer is not dispraised. I have seen some of the Sufis in Aleppo doing that and considering it to be tasfh, not tasfq. They do that in the sessions of commemoration or when one of them is in a state of ecstasy due to listening to a chant or a poem. They depend on a narration in the Two Sahhs[4] and other compilations, which contain the words, "Tasfh is for no one but women", instead of "Indeed, clapping is for women." This narration is also mentioned in the Sunan of Ab Dwd with a chain of transmission that Shaykh Al-Albn said it sahh, yet disconnected. On the authority of `s Ibn Ayyb, who said: "The saying, '"Tasfh is for no one but women' means that a woman strikes with two fingers of her right hand on the palm of the left hand."
  Imm An-Nawaw said in the commentary on Sahh Muslim [4/164]: "It is recommended for the one to whom something occurred in the prayer such as informing the one who seeks permission to enter the house, or if he wants to attract the attention of the Imam to say tasbh if he is a man; he should say "subhna Allh". And women should tasfh by striking the palm of the right hand on the back of the left hand. She should not strike the palm of the right hand on the palm of the left hand by way of playing and amusement. If she does so, her prayer becomes invalid because playing is contradictory to the actions of prayer.
Moreover, in his book Nayl Al-Awtr, Imam Ash-Shawkn (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "Zaynud-Dn Al-`Irq said, 'The famous opinion is that 'Tasfh' and 'Tasfq' have the same meaning.' `Uqbah said, 'Tasfh is the same as Tasfq.' This was also said by Ab `Al Al-Baghdd, Al-Khattb and Al-Jawhar. Moreover, Ibn Hazm said, 'There is no difference among scholars that tasfh and tasfq have the same meaning; beating one  palm against the other.' Al-`Irq said, 'Saying that there is no difference between tasfq and tasfh is not correct. Rather, there are two other opinions in this regard: First, tasfh is striking with the palm of one hand on the back of the other, while tasfq is beating the palm of one hand against the palm of the other. This opinion is maintained by the authors of Al-Kaml and Al-Mufhim. The second opinion states that tasfh is beating with two fingers while tasfq is beating with all the fingers for the sake of amusement.'"
This is what I say, and Allah is Most Knowledgeable, Most Wise. My success is only  through Allah the Almighty. Upon Him I have relied, and to Him I return.

[1] Al- Jhiliyyah is an Arabic word that means the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.
[2]  Takbr refers to saying "Allahu Akbar, i.e. Allah is Great.
[3] Tasbh means saying "Subhana Allah" i.e. Glory be to Allah.
[4]  The Two Sahhs refers to the two authentic books of Al-Bukhr and Muslim.


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