SujoodWe often find our minds wandering during Salah: tasks to be done, friends to call, memories of days gone by – all kinds of important and more often unimportant reflections vie for our attention, just as we are trying to call out to our Lord. Prophet Muhammad (sa) warned us that although Shaitan flees on hearing the Adhan and Iqama (calls to prayer): “He returns again, and whispers into the heart of the person (to divert his attention from his prayer) and makes him remember things, which he does not recall to his mind before the prayer and that causes him to forget, how much he has prayed.” (Bukhari)

Sometimes, we end up omitting from Salah, adding to it, or having doubts regarding a part of our prayer. In all three cases, we have been instructed by our beloved Prophet’s (sa) example to perform Sujood-as-Sahu (two prostrations of forgetfulness).

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas (rta): “The Prophet (sa) named the two prostrations of forgetfulness disgraceful for the devil.” (Abu Dawood)

Abu Hurairah (rta) describes the way the Prophet (sa) performed these prostrations: “He said Takbir (Allahu Akbar), performed a prostration of ordinary duration or longer, then he raised his head and said Takbir and performed another prostration of ordinary duration or longer, and then raised his head and said Takbir (i.e., he performed the two prostrations of Sahu, i.e., forgetfulness).”

The point of prayer, when the prostrations must be made, depends on the error committed.

The Error of Adding to Salah

When addition is made to the positions of Salah-bowing, prostrating, standing or an entire Rakah (unit or prayer)-Sujood-as-Sahu must be preformed after Salam.

The Prophet (sa) once made five Rakahs, instead of four, for Dhuhr. When questioned about the addition, he made two prostrations (Sujood-as-Sahu). He had also pointed out: “I am a human being like you and liable to forget like you. So if I forget, remind me…” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Note: If you realize you are adding a Rakah while still praying, stop and return to the original position before the addition was made, complete the Salah, and perform Sujood-as-Sahu.

Furthermore, if one adds Salam before completing the required Rakahs (for example, making two Rakahs and then saying Salam (ending Salah), where four Rakahs are required), the missing Rakahs must be prayed as soon as the omission is remembered. In this case, Sujood-as-Sahu should be preformed after Salam. “Once, the Prophet (sa) led the Dhuhr prayer, offering only two Rakat and then (finished it) with Salam. The people then informed him, upon which he proceeded and completed his prayer and then prostrated twice after Salam. He also said Salam after completing the two prostrations.” (Bukhari)

However, if your Wudu needs to be repeated (due to nullification: by passing wind, answering the call of nature or vomiting) before praying the omitted Rakahs of Salah, you must then repeat the entire Salah again, regardless of the Rakahs you had previously prayed.

The Error of Omitting from Salah

If omission is made from the positions of Salah, the prostrations of forgetfulness are preformed before Salam.

“Allah’s Messenger (sa) stood up for the Dhuhr prayer and he should have sat (after the second Rakah, but he stood up for the third Rakah without sitting for Tashah-hud (the sitting position after the second Rakah), and when he finished the prayer, he performed two prostrations and said Takbir on each prostration while sitting, before ending (the prayer) with Salam; and the people too performed the two prostrations with him, instead of the sitting he forgot.” (Bukhari)

The Case of Doubt in Salah

When unsure of how many Rakahs have preformed, the lesser number must be considered and the prayer accordingly completed with Sujood-as-Sahu made before making Salam. The Prophet (sa) has instructed:

“When any one of you is in doubt about his prayer, and he does not know, how much he has prayed, three or four (Rakahs), he should cast aside his doubt and base his prayer on what he is sure of, then perform two prostrations before giving salutations. If he has prayed five Rakahs, they will make his prayer an even number for him, and if he has prayed exactly four, they will be humiliation for the devil.” (Muslim)

However, if a person positively determines the number of Rakahs preformed, then he should complete his Salah accordingly with Sujood-as-Sahu after the Salam.

“If any of you is uncertain about his prayer (how much he has prayed), he should strive to achieve certainty, then complete his prayer accordingly and prostrate twice after Salam” (Bukhari).

Thus, our beloved Prophet (sa) has guided us in correcting unintentional errors in Salah, so we may defy Shaitan by making our prayers acceptable to Allah (swt) and continue to strive for perfection in Salah.

Addition to Salah. Addition of a prostration, Ruku (bowing), or Rakah (5 made, when 4 required). After Salam.
Salam is made before completing all required Rakahs (the Salam is considered an addition), as a result of what Salah is cut short (2 Rakahs preformed instead of 4). Forgotten Rakahs should be made and Sujood-as-Sahu performed after Salam.
Omission from Salah. A bowing, prostration, or sitting is omitted. Forgetting to say Takbir during the prayer. Before Salam.
Doubts in Salah. Uncertainty about the number of Rakahs performed. Assume the lesser number of Rakahs you are sure about, complete the remaining Rakahs, and make Sujood-as-Sahu before Salam.
At first, in doubt about the number of Rakahs made, but then positively determining the exact number. Complete Salah according to the determined number of Rakahs and make Sujood-as-Sahu after Salam.