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The hadith of the man who prayed badly is often referenced, at least among Sunni schools, due to its clear descriptions of prayer; it describes, step-by-step, each of the mandatory forms of the regular salat.

The common narrations of this hadith do not, however, describe what mistake (or mistakes) were made in the original prayer to actually earn the reprimand "Go back and pray, for you have not prayed."

Is there any information available regarding these mistakes? Authentic sources are, of course, preferable, but anything from the hadith literature which sheds light on this event would be appreciated.

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I always thought he wasn't pausing sufficiently between the ruku' and sajdah and between sajdahs. –  Ansari Jan 13 '13 at 4:34
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2 Answers

According to the hadith :

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي سَعِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم دَخَلَ الْمَسْجِدَ، فَدَخَلَ رَجُلٌ فَصَلَّى فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَرَدَّ وَقَالَ ‏ارْجِعْ فَصَلِّ، فَإِنَّكَ لَمْ تُصَلِّ ‏.‏ فَرَجَعَ يُصَلِّي كَمَا صَلَّى ثُمَّ جَاءَ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ ‏ارْجِعْ فَصَلِّ فَإِنَّكَ لَمْ تُصَلِّ ‏ ثَلاَثًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ وَالَّذِي بَعَثَكَ بِالْحَقِّ مَا أُحْسِنُ غَيْرَهُ فَعَلِّمْنِي‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏ إِذَا قُمْتَ إِلَى الصَّلاَةِ فَكَبِّرْ، ثُمَّ اقْرَأْ مَا تَيَسَّرَ مَعَكَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ، ثُمَّ ارْكَعْ حَتَّى تَطْمَئِنَّ رَاكِعًا، ثُمَّ ارْفَعْ حَتَّى تَعْتَدِلَ قَائِمًا، ثُمَّ اسْجُدْ حَتَّى تَطْمَئِنَّ سَاجِدًا، ثُمَّ ارْفَعْ حَتَّى تَطْمَئِنَّ جَالِسًا، وَافْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فِي صَلاَتِكَ كُلِّهَا ‏.

English Translation :

Allah's Messenger (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) entered the mosque and a person followed him. The man prayed and went to the Prophet and greeted him. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) returned the greeting and said to him, Go back and pray, for you have not prayed. The man went back prayed in the same way as before, returned and greeted the Prophet who said, Go back and pray, for you have not prayed. This happened thrice. The man said, By Him Who sent you with the Truth, I cannot offer the prayer in a better way than this. Please, teach me how to pray. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, When you stand for Prayer say Takbir and then recite from the Holy Qur'an (of what you know by heart) and then bow till you feel at ease. Then raise your head and stand up straight, then prostrate till you feel at ease during your prostration, then sit with calmness till you feel at ease (do not hurry) and do the same in all your prayers.

The word feel at ease meaning الطمأنينة in Arabic is repeated 3 times in the hadith.
I think the prayer was in a hurry when praying. More lecture in arabic about this hadith and the 'educational side' on it here

كان تعليم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم رفيقا رقيقا، فلم يعنفه أو يشدد في الإنكار عليه، على رغم أن خطأه كان في ركن من أركان الإسلام لا يقبل إلا به، وهو الطمأنينة

Allah only knows

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I think quoting the Hadith would add value to this answer. What do you think? –  Hosam Aly Jan 23 '13 at 16:53
    
Sure, I added the Hadith and its English translation to the answer. –  Hicham LEMGHARI Jan 23 '13 at 17:34
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bow till you feel at ease

sit with calmness till you feel at ease (do not hurry)

until his joints settle and he is relaxed

until he has placed his face firmly on the ground and he is relaxed

The narrations of the Hadith clarify the issue: calming, settling, relaxing, and feeling at ease. In short: "الطمأنينة". (Thanks to @Hicham LEMGHARI).

The first two quoted statements above are from the narration in Sahih al-Bukhari, while the latter two are from the narration in Sunan an-Nasa'i, which is quoted below:

أَخْبَرَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ الْمُقْرِئُ أَبُو يَحْيَى، بِمَكَّةَ - وَهُوَ بَصْرِيٌّ - قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي قَالَ، حَدَّثَنَا هَمَّامٌ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا إِسْحَاقُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ، أَنَّ عَلِيَّ بْنَ يَحْيَى بْنِ خَلاَّدِ بْنِ مَالِكِ بْنِ رَافِعِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، حَدَّثَهُ عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَمِّهِ، رِفَاعَةَ بْنِ رَافِعٍ قَالَ بَيْنَمَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم جَالِسٌ وَنَحْنُ حَوْلَهُ إِذْ دَخَلَ رَجُلٌ فَأَتَى الْقِبْلَةَ فَصَلَّى فَلَمَّا قَضَى صَلاَتَهُ جَاءَ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَعَلَى الْقَوْمِ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ وَعَلَيْكَ اذْهَبْ فَصَلِّ فَإِنَّكَ لَمْ تُصَلِّ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ فَذَهَبَ فَصَلَّى فَجَعَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَرْمُقُ صَلاَتَهُ وَلاَ يَدْرِي مَا يَعِيبُ مِنْهَا فَلَمَّا قَضَى صَلاَتَهُ جَاءَ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَعَلَى الْقَوْمِ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ وَعَلَيْكَ اذْهَبْ فَصَلِّ فَإِنَّكَ لَمْ تُصَلِّ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ فَأَعَادَهَا مَرَّتَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلاَثًا فَقَالَ الرَّجُلُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا عِبْتَ مِنْ صَلاَتِي فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ إِنَّهَا لَمْ تَتِمَّ صَلاَةُ أَحَدِكُمْ حَتَّى يُسْبِغَ الْوُضُوءَ كَمَا أَمَرَهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فَيَغْسِلَ وَجْهَهُ وَيَدَيْهِ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقَيْنِ وَيَمْسَحَ بِرَأْسِهِ وَرِجْلَيْهِ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُكَبِّرَ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَيَحْمَدَهُ وَيُمَجِّدَهُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ هَمَّامٌ وَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ ‏"‏ وَيَحْمَدَ اللَّهَ وَيُمَجِّدَهُ وَيُكَبِّرَهُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَكِلاَهُمَا قَدْ سَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ قَالَ ‏"‏ وَيَقْرَأَ مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مِمَّا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ وَأَذِنَ لَهُ فِيهِ ثُمَّ يُكَبِّرَ وَيَرْكَعَ حَتَّى تَطْمَئِنَّ مَفَاصِلُهُ وَتَسْتَرْخِيَ ثُمَّ يَقُولَ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَوِيَ قَائِمًا حَتَّى يُقِيمَ صُلْبَهُ ثُمَّ يُكَبِّرَ وَيَسْجُدَ حَتَّى يُمَكِّنَ وَجْهَهُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ وَقَدْ سَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ ‏"‏ جَبْهَتَهُ حَتَّى تَطْمَئِنَّ مَفَاصِلُهُ وَتَسْتَرْخِيَ وَيُكَبِّرَ فَيَرْفَعَ حَتَّى يَسْتَوِيَ قَاعِدًا عَلَى مَقْعَدَتِهِ وَيُقِيمَ صُلْبَهُ ثُمَّ يُكَبِّرَ فَيَسْجُدَ حَتَّى يُمَكِّنَ وَجْهَهُ وَيَسْتَرْخِيَ فَإِذَا لَمْ يَفْعَلْ هَكَذَا لَمْ تَتِمَّ صَلاَتُهُ ‏"‏ ‏.

It was narrated that Rifa'ah bin Rafi' said: "While the Messenger of Allah () was sitting with us around him, a man came in, turned towards the Qiblah and prayed. When he had finished his prayer, he came and greeted the Messenger of Allah () and the people with Salam. The Messenger of Allah () said to him: 'And also to you. Go and pray, for you have not prayed.' So he went and prayed, and the Messenger of Allah () started watching him, and he (the man) did not know what was wrong with it. When he had finished the prayer, he came and greeted the Messenger of Allah () and the people with salam. The Messenger of Allah () said to him: 'And also to you. Go and pray, for you have not prayed.' He repeated it two or three times, then the man said: 'O Messenger of Allah, what is wrong with my prayer?' The Messenger of Allah () said: 'The prayer of any of you is not complete unless he performs wudu properly as enjoined by Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. So he should wash his face, his arms up to the elbows, and wipe his head, and (wash) his feet up to the ankles. Then he should magnify Allah (SWT) and praise Him and glorify Him.'" - (One of the narrators) Hammam said: "I heard him say: 'He should praise Allah and glorify Him and magnify Him." He said: "I heard both of them." -"He (the Prophet ()) said: 'He should recite whatever is easy for him of the Quran that Allah has taught him and permitted him in it (the prayer). Then he should say the Takbir and bow until his joints settle and he is relaxed. Then he should say: 'Sami Allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears the one who praises Him)' and stand up straight until his backbone is straight (and at ease). Then he should say Takbir and prostrate until he has placed his face firmly on the ground." "I heard him say: his forehead, until his joints settle and he is relaxed. Then he should say the Takbir and sit up until his backbone is straight (and at ease). Then he should prostrate until he has placed his face firmly on the ground and he is relaxed. If he does not do that then he has not completed his prayer." (Sahih)

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