Prostrations of Forgetfulness, Sajdah as-Sahw

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are the main points of the prostrations of forgetfulness, sajdah as-sahw.  This is quite technical.  The two reasons for the performance of the sajdah as-sahw are non-performance of something called for, such as an integral sunnah, or performance of something uncalled-for, such as absentmindedly adding a rak’ah to one’s swalah.

As for the non-performance, if one misses an integral part of the swalah and does not remember it until doing what comes after it, then one must, if still in the same rak’ah, go back to it, perform it and what comes after it, and, since it is a sunnah mu’akkadah, prostrate for it at the end of the swalah.  If one is a follower who misses an integral portion of the swalah, one continues following the imam until the imam completes the swalah with salam, and then rises alone to perform a makeup rak’ah.  One is only obligated to repeat a missed integral part of the swalah when praying alone if one’s forgetfulness of it does not continue until the next rak’ah.  If, however, one’s forgetfulness continues, and one goes on to perform the integral portion during the course of the subsequent rak’ah, then the same integral action of the following rak’ah takes the missed integral's place.  In this case, the rak’ah with the omission does not count and one does not return to it, but performs the rest of the prayer and then adds a makeup rak’ah at the end.  After this, one performs the sajdah as-sahw before one finishes with the salam.

If there is a surplus action, such as when one absentmindedly goes from qiyam, standing, to sujud, prostration, without having performed the ruku’, the bowing; if one then remembers, one stands up and performs the ruku’ again, and performs the sajdah as-sahw at the end of the swalah.  This having stood twice before the ruku’ is a surplus action.  One does not sujud for forgetfulness when there is no surplus action, as when one omits the final sujud of the prayer, but remembers it before one finishes with the salam and performs it.  In this case, one does not sujud for it because there has not been an addition.

If one misses an integral sunnah, even purposely, one performs a sajdah as sahw.  If one misses anything else besides an integral sunnah, then one does not sujud for it.

There is no sajdah as-sahw for doing an uncalled-for action, either intentionally or absentmindedly, of the type which when done intentionally does not invalidate the swalah.  Examples include the turning of the head, or taking one or two steps.  Reciting a part or all of Surah al-Fatihah or tashahhud at the wrong place in the prayer are exceptions to this in that, although intentionally reciting them at the wrong place does not invalidate the swalah, it does still require a sajdah as-sahw.

One performs a sajdah as-sahw for unintentionally doing an uncalled-for action of the type which when done intentionally invalidates the swalah, such as a small amount of extraneous speech; provided it is not the type of action whose unintentional performance also invalidates the swalah, such as much extraneous speech or action.  This is because the invalidation of the swalah obviates the requirement for a sajdah as-sahw.  Straightening back up after ruku’, and the jalsah, sitting between sajdah are two brief integrals.  To intentionally make them lengthy invalidates one’s swalah, though to do so absentmindedly merely calls for a sajdah as-sahw.  An exception to this is qiyam at length after ruku’ in the final rak’ah of any swalah, as this does not invalidate the swalah even when done intentionally, and even if there is no supplication therein.

If one forgets the first tashahhud and stands up, it is impermissible to return to it.  If one intentionally returns to it, this invalidates one’s swalah because one has interrupted an obligatory action, the qiyam, for the sake of something non-obligatory action.  The integral sunnah is the first tashahhud only.  But if one returns to it absentmindedly or out of ignorance, one merely does sujud for it, though one must interrupt the tashahhud that one has returned to, and stand up as soon as one remembers.

If one has omitted the first tashahhud and started to rise, but checks oneself before standing and sits down again, this does not call for a sajdah as-sahw as it is not a full surplus action.  But if one intentionally rises and then returns to sitting after having been closer to qiyam, one’s swalah is invalid.  If one had not yet been that close, or had, but returned absentmindedly or in ignorance of its prohibition, it is not invalid.  The same principle applies to omitting the supplication of the dawn prayer, swalah al-fajr, where placing the forehead on the ground is as standing up is in the above ruling; that is , one may return to the omitted supplication as long as one has not yet completed one’s first sujud.

When praying behind an imam who misses the first tashahhud by standing, the follower may not remain seated to recite it by himself as this is a gross contravention of the leadership of the imam and invalidates the swalah when done intentionally and in awareness of its prohibition, unless he has made the intention to cease his participation in the group prayer, the jama’ah, and finish alone.  But it the imam omits the first tashahhud and the follower stands up with in, and then the imam sits, down, it is unlawful for the follower to follow him therein,  Rather, the follower should either cease his participation in the group prayer, or else remain in qiyam and wait for the imam to rise before they continue the prayer together.  If the follower intentionally sits back down when the imam does, knowing it is unlawful, then his swalah is invalid.  If the imam is sitting for the tashahhud and the follower absentmindedly stands up, then he must sit again, in deference to the imam’s leadership, because following him in what is correct takes priority over starting an obligatory integral, which is also why the late comer to group prayer may omit both qiyam and reciting Surah al-Fatihah to ruku’ when the imam performs it.

One does not perform the sajdah as-sahw when one is uncertain if one did something that calls for it, or that one added a surplus integral, or did something uncalled for.  But if uncertain, whether one omitted an integral sunnah, or performed the sajdah as-sahw, or whether one prayed three raka’at or four, and this includes being uncertain that one performed one or more of a rak’ah, since without all seventeen integral sunnat, the rak’ah remains unperformed; then one proceeds on the assumption that one did not yet do it and finishes with a sajdah as-sahw.  When one’s doubt is resolved before finishing the swalah with salam, one also performs sujud for forgetfulness because of the rak’ah one prayed while uncertain, which was presumed to have possibly been extra.  But if performing it would have been obligatory in any case, as when one is uncertain during the third rak’ah of a four-rak’ah swalah, as to whether it is the third or fourth rak’ah, since both of which would be obligatory for the swalah in any case; but one remembers during it that it is the third, then one does not sujud for forgetfulness, though if one did not remember which it was until rising for the fourth rak’ah which one presumed might be the fifth, one performs sajdah as-sahw.  The same principle applies to swalah of less than four raka’at.

The sajdah as-sahw, even if there are numerous reasons for it in one swalah, consists of only two sajdah, prostrations.

If one comes late to a jama’ah and the imam performs a sajdah as-sahw at the end of the group’s swalah, one performs it with the group, and once again at the end of one’s own swalah.  A follower does not sujud for forgetfulness when he makes an individual mistake that the imam did not make while following unless he omits an integral sunnah.  He does sujud if his mistake occurred before joining the jama’ah or after the imam finished with salam.  If the imam makes a mistake, even if it was before one joined the jama’ah, then one must sujud for it with the group out of deference to the imam’s leadership.  If one declines to perform it, it invalidates one’s swalah.  If the imam neglects to perform a sajdah as-sahw, the follower does so anyway.  If one comes late to jama’ah, absentmindedly finishes with salam with the imam, and then remembers that the rest of the prayer that one has to complete, one performs the remainder and performs sajdah as-sahw.

The sajdah as-sahw is a sunnah.  It is performed before one’s final salam, whether the reason is a surplus action or an omitted one.  One is no longer entitled to perform it if one deliberately finishes with salam before it, or absentmindedly finishes with salam and there is a lengthy interval before one recalls that one was supposed to have performed it; though if this interval is brief and one wishes, then one may sujud, and one has thereby returned to the prayer and must again finish it with salam.


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