Praise be to Allaah.
The Messenger (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him)
enjoined that people of knowledge and virtue should come forward to pray and
should be close to him. He said: “Let those who are most wise and dignified
be closest to me, then those who come after them, then those who come after
them.” Narrated by Muslim (432).
But this hadeeth does not mean that others are prohibited
from coming forward; rather it is meant to encourage those who are most wise
and dignified to come forward to pray so that they will be behind the imam,
in the first rows. But if they are lazy and fail to attend the prayer, then
whoever gets to the front row or behind the imam first is more entitled to
it, even if he is a young boy.
Ibn Hajr al-Haytami said in al-Isnaaf (2/41):
Al-Majd ibn Taymiyah favoured the view that the boy should
not be sent back from his place if he got there first. He said: and this is
the correct view.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz said: The correct view is that if they --
meaning boys -- come in the front rows, it is not permissible to send them
back, and if they get to the front row or the second row first, then those
who come after them should not make them stand up and move, because they
attained the right first that others did not attain. So it is not
permissible to send them back because of the general meaning of the hadeeths
which speak about that, because making them move back will put them off
prayer and will put them off competing in that, and that is not
But if people have come together for a trip or for some other
reason, then the men should form rows first and the boys second, then the
women after them if there are women present. But as for taking them out of
the row so that adults who came after them can take their place, that is not
With regard to the words of the Prophet (blessings and peace
of Allaah be upon him), “Let those who are most wise and dignified be
closest to me”, what is meant is to encourage those who are wise and most
dignified to hasten to come to prayer and to be in the forefront of the
people. It does not mean that those who got there before them should be
pushed back for their sake. End quote.
Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said in al-Sharh al-Mumti’
If the boys reach a place first, then they are more entitled
to it than others, because of the general meaning of the evidence that the
one who reaches something first that no one else has reached before him is
more entitled to it. The mosques are the houses of Allaah in which the
slaves of Allaah are equal, so if a boy reaches the first row first -- for
example -- and sits down, then let him stay where he is, because if we say
that boys should be removed from the best place and we put them all in one
place, that will lead to them playing about because they are together on
their own in one row. End quote.
The Shaykh also said:
It is permissible for boys to be in the row even if they
interrupt the row, because they are human beings; they are not stones or
pillars, so they do not break up the row and it is not permissible for
anyone to make them leave their places, even if they are directly behind the
imam in the first row, because it is not permissible to move them from their
places; end quote.
Liqa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh (106/24).
Based on the above, the one who is most entitled to the first
row, even if he is directly behind the imam, is the one who gets there
first, even if he is a boy, and even if there is someone who is superior to
him. In that case it is not permissible to make him move back.
And Allaah knows best.