Fiqh, Evidence & Legal Reasoning: Basic invalidators of prayer”

One of my current projects is to give students of fiqh a taste of the evidence behind rulings and legal reasoning, as well as a few hints as to why one opinion is preferred over others. Here’s an example from a section concerning things that invalidate prayer.

Prayer is invalidated by:

  • intentional speech;
  • excessive motion;

Like three continuous steps, even if it is accidental. The difference between a small amount of motion and a large amount is that large amounts are possible to avoid, in contrast to small amounts. Discontinuous motion does not invalidate the prayer since he ﷺ would pray while carrying Umāmah bint Zaynab; whenever he ﷺ prostrated he would place her on the ground, and when he stood he would carry her. [Agreed upon.]1

Additionally, excessive motion negates the overall organization and system [niẓām] of prayer.

  • ritual impurity;
  • the occurrence of filth without its immediate removal;
  • exposure of one’s nakedness;
  • a change of intention;

Such as intending to exit prayer.

  • turning away from the direction of prayer;

Since the previous five things involve omitting a condition or essential element of prayer.

  • eating;

Since it negates that one is praying. Eating invalidates the prayer unless it is done accidentally or without knowing that it is unlawful. In such a case, eating a small amount does not invalidate the prayer.

  • drinking;
  • audibly cackling; and
  • apostasy.

Since these matters negate the general form of prayer and its conditions.

Intentionally adding or omitting an essential element invalidates the prayer, due to him fooling around. Concerning this I know of no disagreement.


  1. Bukhārī (516); Muslim (543 #41–43). From Abū Qatādah al-Anṣārī. 
  • Ahmedkhan Mahadik

    What about the people continously moving index finger in the state of tashahud, believing they are hitting shaitan.