The following is an audio clip by Dr. Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmed summarising the issue of whether men may place their hands on the chest in Salah by means of an analysis of the main evidences used by certain quarters in this age. Not one of the famous 4 Imams of Islamic jurisprudence (via means of an authentic ascription to them) – Abu Hanifa (d. 150 AH), Malik (d. 179 AH), al-Shafi’i (d. 204 AH) and Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH) is known to have advocated the placing of the hands on the chest in Salah.
To illustrate the claim made above, let us look at an authentic report emanating from the legal rulings of the great Hadith Master, Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH), as reported by his disciple, the Imam of Hadith and author of the Sunan, Abu Dawud al-Sijjistani (d. 275 AH), as reported in the latters recension of the Masa’il al-Imam Ahmed (pp. 47-48), as follows:
قُلْتُ لِأَحْمَدَ ” وَضْعُ الْيَمِينِ عَلَى الشِّمَالِ فِي الصَّلَاةِ تَخْتَارُهُ؟ قَالَ : نَعَمْ “.وَسَمِعْتُهُ ” سُئِلَ عَنْ وَضْعِهِ، فَقَالَ : فَوْقَ السُّرَّةِ قَلِيلًا، وَإِنْ كَانَ تَحْتَ السُّرَّةِ فَلَا بَأْسَ“.وَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ : ” يَكْرَهُ أَنْ يَكُونَ، يَعْنِي : وَضْعَ الْيَدَيْنِ عِنْدَ الصَّدْرِ
I said to Ahmed, ‘Is your chosen position to place the right hand over the left in prayer?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And I heard that he was asked about placing it and he said, ‘slightly above the navel. If it is below the navel then there is no harm in it.’ I also heard him saying, ‘It is disliked to be like that’, that is: Placing the hands upon the chest (indas-sadr).
Indeed, another famous Imam of hadith known as Ishaq ibn Rahawayh (d. 238 AH) who was not only a contemporary to Imam Ahmed, but also a teacher of Imam al-Bukhari’s (d. 256 AH), has also declared that placing the hands beneath the navel is the strongest position from the perspective of Hadith, as reported by Shaykh Ishaq ibn Mansur al-Kawsaj (d. 251 AH) in his recension of the Masa’il al-Imam Ahmed wa Ishaq ibn Rahawayh.