The scholars have stated that there are five types of movements in Salaat:
- [Waajib] Obligated movements
- [Muharam] Prohibited movements
- [Mustahab] Recommended movements
- [Makrooh] Un-recommended movements
- Mubaah [neither prohibited nor recommended] movements
The obligated movements are the movements that the validity of the prayer depend upon. Examples of such movements is a person praying toward a direction other than the Qiblah, so someone tells him that the Qiblah is to his right and so he moves towards his right. This is an obligated movement because the prayer is not completed except with this movement towards the right. The likes of this happened to those [of the companions] who were praying Fajr in Qubaa when a man told them that the direction of the Qiblah changed towards the Ka'bah, so they changed their direction from the north towards the south. Likewise is the case if a person sees something impure in his clothing and has the ability to remove it while he is praying, in this case it is obligated for him to remove it, and this movement is an obligation because the validity of the prayer depends on it.
The prohibited movements are those that negate the prayer - such as audible laughter; even if it is minimal, it invalidates the prayer because it negates the prayer completely. Likewise is playing, for example if someone around the praying person is playing with a ball and he plays with him [i.e. kicks the ball], his prayer is void because this movement negates it. Likewise a lot of movement is prohibited.
The recommended movements are those that perfect the prayer, such as a person moving forward to close a gap in the ranks that has been opened while he was praying. The person is praying in the second row and a gap has been opened in the first row for example,[ so he moves forward to close it]. This is recommended because it perfects the prayer. Like what the Prophet - صلى الله عليه وسلم - did with ibn 'Abbaas – may Allaah be pleased with them; the Messenger - صلى الله عليه وسلم - stood for the night prayer and ibn 'Abbaas stood to his left, so the Prophet moved him from the left to the right. This is also a recommended type of movement because it perfects the prayer.
The un-recommended movements are the slight movements for no reason, meaning these movements are not done in play and are minimal; like what some people do when fixing their head wear or when looking at their watches, or a person remembering something and quickly writing it while he is praying and so on. These are slight movements but they are un-recommended except if there is a need for them.
The Mubaah movements are slight movements for a need, or a lot of movement out of necessity; such as a person detecting the approach of an enemy and then escapes from him while he is praying. There is a lot of movement involved here but it does not invalidate the prayer because it was done out of necessity. Likewise is the case if a snake, or scorpion attacks him so he attempts to kill it. There is no harm here even if there is a lot of movement because it is a necessity.