Making Room in Assemblies
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat al-Mujaadilah (58:11):
“O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. Allaah will give you (ample) room (from His Mercy). And when you are told to rise up [for prayers, Jihaad (holy fighting in Allaah’s Cause), or for any other good deed], rise up. Allaah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. And Allaah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”
Allaah (Ta’ala) is teaching manners to His believing worshippers, in that when they attend social gatherings, and some of them or any newcomers need a place to sit, it is good manners to make space for them in order for them to join in the gathering. This will not cause any harm or bother to those already sitting, and will benefit their brothers. Since the reward is similar in nature to the action, Allaah will grant ample room (from His Mercy) to those who make space for their brothers, and will make it easy for those who make it easy for their brothers.
“And when you are told to rise up,” or to make room [or step aside] from your spot for a need, then hurry to fulfill the need. Surely, doing this is a part of religious knowledge and Eman (faith), and Allaah raises those who have knowledge and Eman in degrees as much as He has granted them of knowledge and Eman.
“And Allaah is Well-Acquainted with what you do,“ and He will recompense each person according to his deeds; with good, if one does good, and with evil, if one does evil. [Tayseer Al-Kareem by Shaikh As-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah)]
The Dislike of Forcing a Person to get up from his Place (in an Assembly) in order to Sit
Any person who sits in an allowed (or permissible) place in a Masjid or anywhere else is more deserving to that place than others. If it so happens that he needs to leave his place for an emergency or a matter, then comes back to his place after a short time, he has more right to it, and has the right to make anyone who sat in that place get up. This is based on the following: Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “If one of you gets up from his spot and then comes back to it, he has more right to it.“ [Muslim]
Therefore, it is forbidden to make someone get up from his lawful place.
Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) forbade that a man should be made to get up from his seat so that another might sit in it, but one should make room.
Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) disliked that a man should get up from his seat and then somebody else sit in his place. [Al-Bukhaari no. 6270]
Ibn Abi Jamrah said: “The wisdom behind the prohibition is to prevent diminishing the right of a Muslim which might cause hatred in the hearts, and to urge humbleness which will lead to kindness and affection. Moreover, people are all equal with regards to the lawful (allowable) matters; whoever deserves something deserves it and whoever deserves something and it has been taken from him without a just right, then this is considered taking something wrongly and is Haraam (forbidden).” [Fat-h al-Baari]
Question: Is the dislike of making someone get up from his place removed if one gets up from his place for another person willingly; with his permission?
Answer: If the owner of the place gives up his seat to another person, then there is nothing to stop the person from sitting in that place. This is because this was one’s right, and he chose to give it away.
However, what has been quoted from Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) is his dislike of this matter. Abul-Khaseeb narrated: “I was sitting (in an assembly) and Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) entered the assembly; a man got up from his sitting place and offered it to Ibn ‘Umar. But Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) did not sit in it and sat in another place. The man said: ‘There is nothing on you if you sat (in my place).’ Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) said: ‘I would not sit in your place nor in anyone else’s place after something that I witnessed from the Messenger of Allaah (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).’”
Ibn ‘Umar narrated: ‘A man came to Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and a man got up from his seat for him. When he intended to sit in it, the Messenger of Allaah (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) forbade him from that.” [Reported by Ahmad and Abu Dawoud; Authenticated by Al-Albaani and graded Hasan in Saheeh Abu Dawoud no. 4828.]
An-Nawawi (Rahimahullaah) commented on the action of Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) saying: “The action of Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) indicates his cautiousness, although sitting in the man’s place is not forbidden, since the man got up from his place by his pleasure. But Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) feared from two aspects:
First: It could be that the man felt shy of him and this made him get up from his place without a good heart. Therefore, Ibn ‘Umar blocked this route to be on the safe side.
Second: Preferring others with acts of nearness over oneself is disliked or contrary to what it should be…” [Sharh Saheeh Muslim]
The Prohibition of Reserving Places in Assemblies
Question: Some people intentionally put a prayer mat (in the Masjid or an assembly) desiring to get the merit of praying in the first row, despite their late attendance to the Masjid. Is this action legal?
Answer: Ibn Taymiyyah (Rahimahullaah) talked about this issue in particular, saying: “As for what many people do of putting prayer mats on Friday or other than it, i.e. reserving their place before they go into the Masjid, it is strictly forbidden with the consensus of the Muslims (‘Ulama). However, the scholars are of two opinions regarding the validity of one’s prayer on that mat. The person has taken a place unjustly by putting the mat there and prevented others who preceded him in the Masjid to pray in that place, although it is prescribed for people to complete the first row as the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Why do you not make your rows as the Angels make their rows in the presence of their Lord?’ The Companions said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, how do the Angels make their rows in the presence of their Lord?’ He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘They complete the first rows and they keep close together in the rows.’ [Muslim]
Man is commanded to go earlier to the Masjid. But if he puts the mat earlier and comes back late to the Masjid, he has contradicted the Islamic law from two aspects:
1) From the aspect of being late, because he is commanded to proceed early to the Masjid.
2) From the aspect of taking a place (without just right) and preventing those who preceded him in the Masjid to pray in that place and complete the first row. In addition to that, he would have to overstep the people in the Masjid (to reach his place). The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to the man who stepped over the people whilst he was giving a sermon on Friday: ‘Sit down, you have annoyed (the people).’ [Authenticated by Al-Albaani in Saheeh Abu Dawoud]
Is it allowed for a person who comes earlier to the Masjid to remove the prayer mat and pray in that place?
Answer: There are two opinions with regards to this matter, the most correct of which is that others are allowed to remove it and offer prayer in that place. This is because those who preceded in the Masjid deserve to pray in that first row, rather they are commanded with that, and are unable to carry out this command, except by removing that mat.
In addition to that, the mat was put in a way which occupies the place unjustly, and this is a Munkar (evil). The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by taking action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot, then with his heart (by hating it and feeling it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith.’ [Muslim]
However, one should be aware and take into consideration that forbidding evil should not lead to evil greater than it. And Allaah Knows Best.” [Majmoo’ Al-Fatawa by Ibn Taymiyyah]
 The Jurists are in consensus that the preference of others over oneself in the acts of seeking nearness to Allaah is disliked and in other than them is liked. Shaikh ‘Ezzud-Deen said: “There is no preference in acts of nearness such as preferring others with the water of Wudu’, covering the ‘Awrah, nor with the first row (in congregational prayer). This is because the purpose behind the performance of acts of worship is glorification and magnification of Allaah. So if one prefers others with regards these acts of worship, he has indeed abandoned the glorification and magnification of Allaah.”[Al-Ashbaah wan-Nadhaa’ir by As-Suyooti]
📚 The Book of Al-Adaab (The Manners) compiled by Fu’ad ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz al-Shalhoob – Daarul-Qaasim