<< Could someone please provide me with information concerning the issue of Imam Malik and (some) followers of the madhhab that originated with him praying with their hands at their sides (sadl), in their natural position, during the entire salaah, instead in the folded position (qabd).>>
A: The question of Qabd and Sadl, has caused confusion in the minds of Salafis due to their lack of knowledge of the ahkam of Salat.
Putting the right hand over the left in the books of fiqh of the four madhhabs is not included in the obligations. Logically, it is inconceivable to even think that the Imam of Madina in the time when the Prophet (s) said " this is the Greatest Generation", would follow a way other than that of the Prophet (s). The knowledge and reputation of Imam Malik speaks for itself. For he recorded for his explanation of fiqh the `Amal of Medinah and no Salafi can deny this.
In all the books of fiqh, whether it be Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali or Hanafi, reports that qabd- placing the left hand over the right, is accepted. So the question then is, does sadl--praying with hands to the sides, invalidate the Salat? The answer is obviously NO, as it is not part of the obligations.
But to get to the details, what Imam Malik said about sadl was said in his Mudawwana in the Chapter of putting one hand over the other page 75 and 76:
Ibn Qaasim said that Imam Malik said (about putting the right over the left) , " I have no knowledge of it in the fard and it is disliked, but in the Nawaafil if the prayers are long LA BASA `ALAIHI- there is no harm in it, and it is for the individual to decide."
Know my brother, this is a statement of Imam Malik from his students. Not the rumor that is spread with the help of Salafis like Bilal Phillips in his Evolution of Fiqh in which he claims Imam Malik only prayed this way after receiving lashes.
Sayyid Sabiq quoted Imam Tirmidhi in his Fiqh As-Sunnah as saying:
"Knowledgeable Companions (r) their followers and those who came after them believed that one should put his right hand over his left during prayer, while some say above the navel and other say below."
You may have noticed or they may have brought it to your attention that in the Muwatta that Imam Malik recorded the hadith of the position of the hands in which the right is over the left. This shows his willingness to accept the hadith that are true. But this is not a contradiction on his part. The reason for this is that although the hadith is true, in his method he had preferred the `Amal of Medina, the City of the Prophet (s). So whatever people had done in Medina, he considered adequate proof.
All three of these positions in Salat are supported with proof by the Four Imams who related them and those after them that followed them.
In the text of the opinions of the four schools, Shaykh Abdul-Wahaab Ash-Sharaani in his Al-Mizan Al-Kubra:
"wa min dhalika itifaqu al-a'immah `al alstihaab wadh`u yumna ala shimaali fi al-qiyaam-"and from this is the unanimous agreement of the Imams concerning recommendation of placing the right hand over the left hand as long as the person is standing in Qiyam".
However, the words of Imam Malik in the most famous of his narrations is to let the hands hang by the sides, while Imam Al-Awza`i said there is a choice between grasping the hands or leaving them hanging by the sides."
Note: in this judgement the majority of scholars agree that to put one hand over the other during Salat is recommended-mustahab.
Opinions from Scholars of the Maliki School
Shaykh Ahmad Ad-Dirdiri
The Maliki scholar Shaykh Ahmad Ad-Dirdiri said in his Arqab Al-Masslik li Madh`hab Al-Imam Malik says:
"It is allowable to grasp the hands during the obligatory prayer and it is reprehensible to grasp the hands during Fard.
Shaykh Ahmad Az-Zarruq
And to end this, we would like to quote from one of the greatest of the Maliki `ulama, Shaykh Ahmad Az-Zurruq in his commentary of the Risalah by Ibn Abi Zayd:
"The person praying is not to place his right hand over his left in the Fard, although it is allowable in the nawafil due to the length that one stands in prayer in order to support oneself in standing. Shaykh At-Tartushi said, " It is forbidden to grasp the hands during the Fard because it becomes like something he supports himself upon during prayer." The People of Learning in Medina disagreed regarding the grasping of the hands for support as to whether it was a part of the outward aspects of the prayer or not.
Shaykh `Uthman Dan Fodio
It is mentioned in the Bayaan [by Shaykh `Uthman Dan Fodio], "Grasping the hands for support during prayer is summed up in three opinions:
1. some say it is allowed absolutely
2. it is reprehensible except when standing long in the nawafil
3. it is highly recommended and its manner is to grasp the left wrist with the right hand and place them under the chest."
And Allah Knows Best.
Peace and Blessing of Allah ta`ala on Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad.