Congregational Prayer – صَلَاةُ اَلْجَمَاعَةِ
تَجِبُ اَلْجَمَاعَةُ لِلْخَمْسِ اَلْمُؤَدَّاةِ عَلَى اَلرِّجَالِ اَلْأَحْرَارِ اَلْقَادِرِينَ, وَحَرُمَ أَنْ يُؤَمّ َ قَبْلَ رَاتِبٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ, أَوْ عُذْرِهِ, أَوْ عَدَمِ كَرَاهَتِهِ.
There is an agreement amongst the scholars that prayer in congregation is an established and recommended Sunnah. Without a doubt praying in congregation is better than praying alone. As per the madhab, praying with just 2 people constitutes a congregation even if the second is a woman. So a man praying at home with his wife would also be considered as praying in congregation. It doesn’t necessitate to be a large congregation, or with men or in the masjid.
It is obligatory on a person to pray in congregation the 5 daily prayers which are prayed on their time. Missed prayers don’t have to be made up in congregation as per the mu’tamad of the madhab. It is obligatory on the men, free and the able. As per the madhab praying in congregation is wajib but praying in the masjid isn’t. Praying in congregation is one thing and praying in the masjid is another. Praying inside the masjid is mustahab.
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said,
صَلاَةُ الْجَمَاعَةِ تَفْضُلُ صَلاَةَ الْفَذِّ بِسَبْعٍ وَعِشْرِينَ دَرَجَةً
“The prayer in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by person alone.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Some scholars write that as per this hadith we cannot say that praying in congregation is wajib for here the reward for praying alone is also mentioned. A person cannot get reward and sin for the same action. The Hanabila hold that Allah commanded the Prophet to pray in times of distress and war (salatul khawf) so it is indeed wajib to be prayed in congregation. A deficiency of a student of knowledge is not praying in congregation in the masjid. If salah in congregation is missed, then there is no sin but the person should seek someone to pray with them, hence making it a congregation.
It is not obligatory for women to pray in congregation. If women are together or even in gathering with the men, then it is mustahab as per the madhab for them to pray with the congregation. As per the Hanabila, it is permissible for women to attend the masjid. They don’t say it is recommended, but it is allowed since the Prophet gave them that allowance. Based on that it is makruh for the man to prevent his female relatives from attending the masjid unless there is a clear maslaha.
In our times masajid must be made more accessible to the women. Somebody cannot make a thing haram without any clear evidence. Rather those stopping women are actually going against a direct hadith of the Prophet.
Narrated Ibn Umar: The Prophet ﷺ said,
إِذَا اسْتَأْذَنَكُمْ نِسَاؤُكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ فَأْذَنُوا لَهُنَّ
“If your women ask permission to go to the mosque at night, allow them.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
The Hanabila do state that if a young woman is really attractive and that it might cause heads to turn then it is disliked for her to attend the congregation, not impermissible. In recent times, there is a strong need for the women to be connected to the masjid. As per the madhab, the need over-rules something which might be disliked. The madhaib are not always black and white. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah often used to question the position of the Hanbali madhab. It doesn’t make sense that we don’t have a problem with women attending the markets and other places but get too sensitive when the want to visit the Houses of Allah. When the Prophet allowed women to attend the masajid when the people were more pious, the rule was Islamic and much more then it is even more important for them today.
If there is a regular Imam, then it is Haram for someone else to come and lead the salah without his permission. The Hanabila hold this salah to be invalid and that person is deemed as sinful. There are however 3 exceptions to this rule:
- The Imam has given his permission.
- The Imam has an excuse.
- It is known for certain that the Imam doesn’t mind someone else to lead the salah.
The general principle is to wait for the Imam even if the time enters.
وَمَنْ كَبَّرَ قَبْلَ تَسْلِيمَةِ اَلْإِمَامِ اَلْأُولَى أَدْرَكَ اَلْجَمَاعَةَ, وَمَنْ أَدْرَكَهُ رَاكِعًا أَدْرَكَ رَكْعَةً, بِشَرْطِ إِدْرَاكِهِ رَاكِعًا, وَعَدَمِ شَكِّهِ فِيهِ, وتحريمتِهِ قَائِمًا
The one who makes takbeer before the Imam says his first tasleem then such a person has caught the congregation even if he hasn’t sat down or is halfway down. The reward won’t be the same as the one praying from the start but from a legal perspective the jama’a is counted.
As per the madhab even the second tasleem is wajib but the first tasleem terminates the salah.
The one who has caught the Imam in rukuh has caught that rakah on the condition that the person is also in rukuh while the Imam is in a position of rukuh. If there is doubt or the Imam cannot be seen, then as per the madhab that rakah is not to be counted. Doubt doesn’t supersede that which is certain. If the rakah is to be caught, then the person has to do the takbeer of entering the salah while standing and not while in the process of going down into rukuh. Raising the hands in this case is mustahab. Saying the takbeer is of the obligations before going into rukuh. In this case there is an exception where the person can just say the opening takbeer and go into rukuh.
Abu Hurairah narrated that: Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said:
What you catch with the Imam is the end of the salah and that which you are making up with the Imam is the beginning of the salah. As per the Hanabila, this means that for the person joining the Imam in the third rakah, it is their third rakah also for what the Imam does, the followers have to do also. This is the mu’tamad of the madhab.
The Imam carries certain things for the congregation. The one who is praying behind the Imam is excused for certain things because the Imam takes responsibility for it. The excuses include:
As per the madhab, it is not wajib for the follower to recite anything be it the loud or the silent salah. The recitation of the Imam is sufficient for all and the recitation of the Imam is the recitation of the person.
If a person prays a Surah with an ayah of sujud in it, then they don’t need to make sujud for the Imam and his recitation covers for that instead.
The Imam becomes the Sutra for the congregation and people can walk between the rows if a need arises without any harm.
The congregation reply with “Ameen” to the dua of the Imam. They don’t make their own dua.
If a person catches the Imam after the second rakah, then the person gets only the final tashahhud with the Imam. The first tashahhud of the Imam suffices for the one who has joined since the first tasahhud is an obligation of the salah.
The silence of the Imam includes the silent prayers, the pauses of silence the Imam has in the loud prayers like that after Surah al-Fatihah and the beginning of a new Surah and also when the Imam cannot be heard because of distance. Its important to note that the recitation should not be rushed. If a person cannot complete it, then they should keep quite and listen to the recitation of the Imam for that is legislated.