Fatawa >5. Congregational Prayer


5. Congregational Prayer

88. Congregational prayer is among the most important devotional practices of Islam. Tradition has it that it is highly mustahab, being a self-evident truth in Islam. Allah, the Exalted, promised those who take to it a great reward; such reward could outweigh the reward of many obligatory devotions and most of the mustahab ones. The bigger the congregation, which serves as an indicator of Muslim solidarity, the loftier its place and the bigger the reward for the worshippers.

Congregational prayer is best manifested in the obligatory daily prayers, performed on time, especially subh, maghrib and isha, and those prayers whose time has elapsed, i.e. qadha.

89. Congregational prayer may become wajib in given situations:

a. When time is pressing and the worshippers are afflicted with a speech impediment, such as stammer. Such people are obligated to pray behind an imam, in which case they would be relieved of reciting the surah. This is particularly so when time is so short that there may be time left for only one ruku.

b. The mukallafs may be a complete novice who is in need of learning how to recite. Having delayed the learning process till late, it is rather impossible for them to say their prayer independently. Thus, it is obligatory on them to perform their prayer as a part of a congregation; the imam of prayer will take the burden of recitation away from them.

c. The mukallaf may be nadhr bound, or may have made a vow or an oath, to say congregational prayer. It is obligatory on them to do so to honor such a commitment.

Praying Independently or Behind an Imam

90. Prayer may take two forms: The worshippers could say their prayer alone, i.e. without any lawful relationship with another worshipper. This is called individual prayer. We have already discussed both the form and the content of this prayer.

The worshippers may choose to say their prayer behind another worshipper as an imam )leader(. Having chosen to do so, the one who follows in prayer has to mimic the manner and expression of the imam. This prayer is called congregational prayer. The act of mimicking is an expression of the lawful )sharii(. The relationship between the two. The imam and the worshipper.

Both prayers, i.e. that of the imam and the one following him in prayer, are more superior than an individual prayer because both parties are involved in performing congregational prayer which is highly recommended.

The following points are precursors to the rules concerning congregational prayer.

1. When is it permissible to take part in a congregational prayer?

2. The manner it is conducted in.

3. Rules governing it.

4. Differences of the manner of both congregational and individual prayers is conducted in.

5. Rules regulating congregational prayer.

When is it permissible to take part in a congregational prayer?

91 It is permissible to take part in congregational prayer for obligatory daily prayers, Juma prayer, Ayat prayer and others. However, Tawaf obligatory prayer is an exception, because we do not have any evidence that conducting it in a congregation is permissible.

It is not permissible to hold congregational prayer of the mustahab type, even if it becomes thus by way of nadhr. This covers daily supererogatory prayers and other prayers. However, Istisqa (rainfall), the two eid prayers can be held in a congregation, although they are mustahab (voluntary).

92. Holding congregational prayer is not obligatory in all the obligatory prayers, save Juma and Eid prayers, in that the latter shall not be in order unless they are held in a congregation.

93. Should the worshipper say the obligatory daily prayer by themselves, it would do. However, it is mustahab for the worshipper to repeat it as part of a congregation, whether as imam or following in prayer. That is, provided there are at least two participants, one of whom should be performing it afresh.

In case the worshipper performed the obligatory prayer once individually and a second time congregationally, only to find out that the one he performed individually was batil, the second one should serve as a substitute.

94. Suppose the two prayers being performed by both the imam and the one following him in prayer were among the obligatory prayers where congregational prayer is sanctioned. Is it necessary that both prayers be the same; e.g. subh or ayat, or would it still be permissible to take part in such a congregation and the prayer still stands, although that of the imam is different from that of the one following him in prayer?

A. It is permissible to join in such a congregation, although the two prayers )those of the imam and the one following him in prayer( are asymmetrical. For example, you can join in a congregation with the intention of praying maghrib whereas the imam is praying isha; an imam who is performing a current prayer and a follower who is performing qadha prayer for yesterday and vice versa, tamam and qasr and so on, i.e. this is applicable to any obligatory prayer being performed either by the imam or the follower.

95. The exception of the permissibility of joining in an asymmetrical prayer is when the imam is leading either eid and ayat prayers, or that which performed for a dead person. In such a case the worshipper cannot join in except with the intention of performing the kind of prayer the imam is leading.

The same applies for istisqa prayer for both the imam and the one following him in prayer.

96. Suppose a worshipper wants to perform any obligatory daily prayers that he suspects he has missed. Thus, he is resolved to say them by way of ihtiyat. Can he say them behind an imam who is leading an obligatory daily prayer? Is it permissible for other worshippers performing obligatory prayers to follow him? And is it permissible for other worshippers in the same situation of his to follow them in prayer?

A. This worshipper can join in a congregation being held for an obligatory daily prayer. However, it is not permissible for other worshippers to follow him in prayer, if it was an obligatory daily one.

It is permissible for other worshippers wanting to perform ihtiyat prayers to follow in prayer an imam who is praying a symmetrical prayer, irrespective of the nature of ihtiyat being adopted by either worshipper. An example of this could be that the imams reason for ihtiyat is uncertainty about the taharah of his clothes, whereas the followers ihtiyat is combining qasr and tamam prayers.

97. Suppose a worshipper was praying a one-ruku precautionary prayer as a remedy for a suspected lapse in their prayer. Is it permissible for them to follow in prayer an imam who is leading an obligatory daily prayer, or another one who is in the same situation of his? And is it permissible for a worshipper, who is performing an obligatory daily prayer, to follow him in prayer?

A. It is not permissible [on the three counts].

However, you may pose another hypothesis, i.e. that of two worshippers who are engaged in a congregational prayer for the obligatory daily ones.

Both reached the same conclusion as to the number of rukus they suspect have performed. Suppose it was between three and four rukus; accordingly, they settled for the greater number; having completed their prayer thus, they turned to praying a one-ruku prayer. Should the one following in prayer carry on praying behind the imam?

A. The permissibility of following in prayer in such a case is possible. However, it, as a matter of obligatory precaution, is desirable for the worshipper not to pray behind the imam. This is because the precautionary ruku is considered a mustahab kind of devotion, if the original prayer was to be complete. Thus, following in a prayer of the mustahab type is not allowed.

98. You may be about to say one of your obligatory daily prayers. You may find a worshipper, who can fulfill the requirements of imam, engaged in prayer. You should not join in prayer behind him, unless you are sure that the prayer he is performing is an obligatory one and that it is permissible to do so. This is because he could be engaged in a supererogatory prayer, or performing an obligatory one of the type which cannot be held congregationally, such as tawaf prayer by way of qadha.

How should one go about joining in congregational prayer?

99. Following in prayer means that, upon reciting takbiratul ihram, you hold niyyah that you are performing prayer by way of following another worshipper, who becomes an imam by virtue of your following him. This is irrespective of whether or not the imam has the intention of assuming such a role. That is, the congregation is established as a result of the niyyah of the follower, not the imam.

That said, in prayers that have to be said in congregation, the imams have to be aware that they are conducting same as imam. An example of this is Juma prayer and any other obligatory daily prayer voluntarily performed as a repeat while leading the prayer.

The ones who are following in prayer have to identify the person whom they are following. Thus, it is not permissible for them to pray behind two persons at the same time, nor is it permissible to pray behind someone at random.

However, it is not necessary that you name the imam. A reference in oneís mind would do. That is, after making sure that the imam fulfills the requirements. Such requirements will be elaborated later.

Having joined in prayer behind someone believing him to be Mr. )x(, only to find out that he was Mr. )y(, the prayer stands, if the latter is qualified to be imam.

It is not permissible for any two persons to hold, at any one time, niyyah to pray behind the other. Neither is it permissible for a person to hold niyyah to pray behind someone who is in turn holding niyyah to pray behind a third party.

It is not permissible for a worshipper, who inaugurated his prayer independently, to switch niyyah to that of one following in prayer. It is permissible though to do that at the start of prayer.

100. It is not necessary that the worshipper starts his prayer at the same time as that of the imam. It is important though that the one who is following in prayer should not precede the imam in reciting takbiratul ihram.

The worshipper is free to join in congregational prayer at any stage of the first ruku, including while the imam is actually in ruku. All what they need to do is stand upright, hold niyyah for praying in congregation, recite takbiratul ihram, then bow down for ruku, provided that the imam is still in a state of ruku.

The worshipper is also allowed to join in while congregational prayer is still in progress at any stage, be it in the second ruku or any other ruku as will be discussed in some detail.

Q. Is it permissible for the worshippers to make niyyah with the intention of praying behind the imam in part of their prayer, e.g. one or two rukus only?

A. When the total number of rukus of the prayer of the worshipper draws to a close, they are free to break off from the congregation. An example of this is someone performing maghrib prayer behind another who is praying dhuhr qadha. The one who is following in prayer should be able to finish the number of rukus they are required to perform, i.e. three. There and then they are free to depart, leaving the imam to perform the fourth ruku of the prayer he is saying.

Should the imam finish his prayer before that of the person following him in prayer, the latter is allowed to carry on with their prayer and finish it independently. An example of this is a worshipper joining in the congregation during the second ruku of dhuhr prayer. The imam would naturally finish before the one following him in prayer, leaving the latter finish his independently.

If both the imam and the person following him in prayer have something in hand to be over and done with, it is advisable for the follower, on the basis of voluntary precaution, to stick by the congregation to preserve its image and reap the reward (thawab).

The exception is that of the person following in prayer who go their own way when both sit for tashahhud and tasleem. They are free to step the pace up to finish the prayer before the imam.

101. Should the person who is following another in prayer go solo contrary to what we have just discussed, there may arise two possibilities:

a. The notion of going solo must have crossed their mind under the spur of the moment, i.e. they did not think of it at the start of prayer. Their prayer is in order. The recitation should be valid too, if the idea of going solo occurred before performing the first or the second ruku, i.e. the recitation of the imam would be taken into consideration as though he did it on their behalf. Consequently, they are not required to repeat anything. If before going solo, the worshipper had to introduce an extra rukn in prayer, for the sake of keeping pace with the imam, it would not detract from prayer, although it should, as a matter of optional ihtiyat, be considered batil, in which case it has to be repeated.

In all the cases of the worshipper deciding to go solo after joining the congregation, it is not permissible for them to rescind their decision.

b. Suppose the person following in prayer was intent at the outset to switch from following the imam to going solo, say, at the stage of qunoot. Is such a prayer valid?

A. Yes, it is permissible to do so, although it is a advised not to countenance it.

It is not permissible for the worshipper in a congregational prayer to jockey from one congregation to another in any one prayer.

102. Niyyah of qurbah is one of the prerequisites for the validity of prayer. However, it is not thus insofar as the validity of congregational prayer is concerned. That is, if the worshipper joins in a congregational prayer with the intention of improving their recitation, or guarding against falling prey to Satanís suggestions, or showing solidarity with the imam, who is of an impeccable character, or glorifying the faith, such prayer is valid. The worshippers reward for that shall be commensurate with their intention, i.e. no reward for the congregational prayer shall be reaped.

He who joins in a congregational prayer just to show off shall be deemed guilty and his prayer batil, because hypocrisy invalidates any act of worship. The same goes for the imam. In his case, he should be doubly alert not to fall into such pitfalls; he should preserve his niyyah from devilish insinuations.

103. Someone may find himself amidst a congregation. They are not quite sure whether he is praying by himself or being part of the congregation. He should resolve the matter by settling for a solo prayer. The mere suggestion that he may be part of a congregation is immaterial.

Once behind an imam, the worshipper swung between abandoning the idea of praying as part of the congregation or sticking by it. He must abide by their original intention.

Stipulations of Praying in Congregation

Neither following in prayer nor congregational prayer itself can be sanctioned unless the following conditions are fulfilled:

The First Condition Concerning Praying in Congregation

104. a. The worshipper can join in congregational prayer either while the imam reciting takbiratul ihram, standing upright and reciting, after the recitation but before bowing down for ruku, or during ruku but before rising to a standing position. All this can be done in the first ruku and in the other rukus for that matter. However, it is not permissible to join in the prayer at the point when the imam is actually rising from ruku, or on his way to perform sujood. The worshipper wishing to join in should wait until the imam has actually risen to a new ruku.

105. The exception to this is when the worshipper arrives late for congregational prayer, i.e. while the imam is reciting the last tashahhud. Here, should the worshipper be eager to reap the reward of congregational prayer, they can recite takbiratul ihram with the intention of praying in congregation; he should immediately proceed to a sitting position to join in reciting tashahhud. Once the imam finished tashahhud and started tasleem the worshipper can rise to resume his prayer solo without the need for a new takbiratul ihram.

This procedure can be embarked on, if the imam was performing either the first or the second sujood of the last ruku, by simply reciting takbiratul ihram, performing both or either sujood, as the case maybe until the end of tashahhud.

In so doing, the worshipper would be entitled to the reward of congregational prayer, yet what he has done is an extra devotion that would not count towards the prayer in hand. What would though, is joining in[ at any stage] before the imam has risen from ruku.

106. Should the worshipper achieve the bare minimum of ruku which coincided with the imam actually rising from ruku, we cannot unequivocally say that the following ]in prayer[ is valid. However, if the worshipper did so in the belief that he would be able to attain the ruku while the imam is still in ruku, only to find out that it was not the case, his prayer is valid as a solo one.

If the same situation occurs, but this time the worshipper is uncertain whether the imam was actually still in ruku or on his way up, having completed it, his prayer is valid as a congregational one.

107. Having arrived at the scene while the imam is in ruku, the worshipper was reluctant to take any course of action. He can make niyyah, recite takbiratul ihram and perform ruku. If he managed to keep up with the imam while in ruku, his prayer would count as a congregational one; conversely, it would count as a solo one.

108. Should the worshippers fear they may join in good time for ruku, if they were to get to the ranks of worshippers, they can recite takbiratul ihram, perform ruku, and walk, while in ruku, to get to the nearest line, provided that they maintain their position in relation to the direction of qiblah and that they should not do that which could detract from any part of congregational prayer.

109. In all the cases where the worshippers arrive late to join a congregational prayer with the intention of catching up with the imam before the latter rises from any ruku, and fail to do that, it will be too late to make good that raka. The alternative is either to go solo or switch to a supererogatory prayer; if the latter be their choice, the worshipper is free to complete it or interrupt it to join in the congregation when the imam resumes a new ruku.

The Second Condition

b. Keeping up with the imams in all what they are doing or reciting, be it ruku, sujood, qiyam, sitting, recitation, dhikr, tashahhud etc. That is, you should not perform any of the obligations of prayer, be it rukn )fundamental part( or otherwise, before the imam has done so. Your following the imam should be such that you should not leave a long pause between you and him; you can also carry out all that he does simultaneously.

However, carrying out utterances - apart from takbiratul ihram - simultaneously is not obligatory, in that reciting takbiratul ihram by the person who is doing the following should be done only after the imam has done so. It is permissible for members of the congregation to precede the imam in the recitation of Basmalah, tashahhud, dhikr etc. Members of the congregation can also increase the number of tasbihs during ruku, to, say, seven times, in case the imam confined them to three times.

111. Should the one following in prayer deliberately abandon the following, his action is deemed batil and consequently he can no longer be deemed part of the congregation, irrespective of whether or not he was aware that such an obligation was a condition to congregational prayer.

However, doing so due to an oversight can be tolerated. The remedial action that can be taken by such a person is that he should wait to see if they can avail himself of the opportunity of joining in the congregational prayer; this though can be espoused in certain instances that will be discussed later. Failure to do so would not subject the worshipper to any penalty. This can be illustrated by the following hypotheses:

112. The follower in prayer inadvertently rising from ruku before the imam. If, on realizing oneís mistake, one immediately goes back to ruku while the imam is still in ruku, he should take no further action.

However, if upon realizing oneís mistake one does not hasten to resume ruku with the imam, one should switch to a solo prayer because he can no longer be party to the congregational prayer.

113. Inadvertently lifting oneís head from the sujood spot prematurely, i.e. before the imam, is treated in the same way discussed in the preceding paragraph . That is to say, the extra ruku or sujood thus performed can be tolerated for the purpose of keeping pace with the imam.

114. Should the follower in prayer rise prematurely and inadvertently from either ruku or sujood, only to find out that the imam has already done so, he should continue his prayer with the imam and not worry about anything else.

115. There is the case of the follower, in prayer, who does actually perform either ruku or sujood prematurely as a result of an oversight while the imam is still in ruku or sujood. The worshipper should recite dhikr in both cases and resume the following of the imam by performing the ruku or sujood, as case maybe, for a second time, but this time round with the imam. However, in the repeated ruku or sujood, he does not have to recite dhikr.

Should this happen at the point of the imams bowing down for either ruku or sujood, they should stay put and continue his prayer with the imam.

116. If the follower becomes out of step with the imam in performing simultaneous ruku or sujood due to absent-mindedness until the imam has risen from either ruku or sujood, he should perform the part he missed and continue following the imam. He need not worry about anything else.

117. Both the imam and the one following him in prayer may rise from either ruku or sujood at the same time; the followers could find themselves unintentionally resuming an upright standing or a sitting one before the imam. They should stay put until the imam assumes the same position and continue their prayer thereafter.

118. Should the imam inadvertently perform an extra sujood, it is not obligatory on the person following him to do likewise. Non-adherence to the principle of following the imam should, in this situation, not detract from the following itself and the congregation.

119. The followers may lift their head from sujood, only to find out that the imam is still in sujood. Believing that this was the first of the two sujoods, they resumed sujood in compliance with the principle of following the imam as is discussed in (para. 113); however, it transpired that sujood was the second; the worshippersí sujood would count as a second one.

120. Should the worshippers presume that it was the second sujood, and perform a second one in that belief, only to find out that it was the first, it would count as such, i.e. the first pursuant to that of the imam.

The Third Condition

121. c. The presence of both the imam and the congregation, right from the inception of the assembly to the end, in one place, so much so that, according to the established practice, they cannot but be called as a gathering for prayer as a unit, i.e. not dispersed. Large numbers of lines of worshippers praying behind the imam is immaterial so long as the definition of a "gathering" fits.

Thus, it is not permissible for a worshipper to pray, from a place inside their house, behind an imam in a mosque, for this is not a gathering as such. Accordingly the prayer cannot be sanctioned as a congregational one.

On this premise, congregational prayer cannot be deemed valid with the existence of a wall, or any other barrier, between the imam and those following him in prayer, or between the lines of worshippers which may render the gathering not a fully-fledged one. Similarly, the congregation ceases to be called as such, if there were gaps between the imam and members of the congregation or between their ranks.

It is desirable, as a matter of obligatory precaution, for each and every member of congregation to have a gap, not wider than an ordinary step of a man, between themselves and the imam or the worshipper standing in front of them. When it comes to what can constitute a barrier, it is also desirable to avoid anything that may prevent seeing or watching, such as wall or the like.

122. The exception to the rule are women standing in prayer behind an imam among men and/or formations of men in congregation. They are allowed to screen themselves from men. A wider gap between the place the woman is standing in and the imam, or the rest of congregation, is also allowed.

123. It is permissible to hold congregational prayer despite the existence of transparent barriers, such as glass or mesh screens. Such obstacles should not detract from the validity of the assembly. Congregational prayer is also permissible with the presence of a movable object, such as a human being passing by.

124. It is sufficient for the validity of the congregation that at least one worshipper in the line of worshippers maintains the right gap between themselves and the worshipper standing in front of them. Thus, their prayer as well as that of the one standing to their right and left shall be valid, even with the presence of a wall or any other barrier; in such a case the gathering should be deemed proper.

According to this premise, if the mosque overflows with worshippers, one of them could stand at the threshold of its open gate, occupying such a vantage point that they could see the imam directly through him who could see the imam ]third party[. The prayer of this worshipper prayer is valid, so is the prayer of all those who are standing to their right and left, or behind them.

125. As those worshippers who are standing in the front lines in the congregation can constitute neither a gap nor an barrier between the imam and those standing behind them, they cannot constitute any screen when they are about to embark on takbiratul ihram. Thus, it is permissible for those occupying the back lines to make niyyah for congregational prayer followed by takbiratul ihram, should they notice that their fellow worshippers are ready to do so, such as having raised their hands in preparation to reciting takbiratul ihram. Should a situation arise where any of the worshippers occupying the front rows is engaged in performing a qasr prayer, this would not detract from the prayer of the worshipper standing behind them. If the first one decides to leave the congregation after they finish their prayer, the one who is standing behind them can hasten to move forward to close the gap, should it grow wider than be necessary. That is, provided that the worshippers maintained their position in relation to the direction of qiblah.

The same applies to the fellow worshipper standing to the side of the worshipper who was performing qasr prayer.

126. Q. Suppose a worshipper taking part in a congregation prayer is aware that the prayer of some of those occupying the rows in front of him is batil. Would their presence constitute any barrier or gap?

A. No, neither a barrier nor a gap is thus constituted so long as the form and content of prayer are preserved. Accordingly, the person who is praying in the ranks behind them can rest assured that their prayer is valid.

127. A congregational prayer convened without the presence of a barrier which may detract from its being called as such. Shortly afterwards, it transpired to one member of the congregation that there appeared to be a gap or a barrier. What is the ruling?

A. The ruling is that one should assume that the congregation is intact and therefore valid. However, if at the outset one is doubtful about the presence of a gap or a barrier, which would, according to established practice, be seen as belittling its stature, it is not permissible for the doubting person to rely on such congregation, let alone take part in it.

Ignorance of the existence of a gap or an obstacle, which would detract from the congregation being dubbed thus, is not an admissible excuse for the validity of prayer. Whoever faces such a situation, his following in prayer of such a congregation is batil outright. His prayer should be judged in the light of the ruling which will be discussed in (para041).

The Fourth Condition

d. The imam should meet certain requirements, some of which concern his character in general, and others relate to his particular position in the prayer he is leading.

128. a. The imam of the congregation should be sound in mind, adult, as a matter of ihtiyat, legitimate by birth, a believer, and even-handed; the imam should also be male, if the one following him was male; women cannot lead men in prayer; they can, however, lead other women in prayer. The imam should not be Aarabi, i.e. a person who take for domicile a place that may invite sneering - which could in turn inspire suspicion about their adherence to sharia laws.

b. As for the requirements of the imamís position as the leader of prayer, the following must be met:

129. a. The imam must be well versed in recitation, for the one following in prayer would rely on him in this regard, as will be elaborated.

130. b. The imam must perform his prayer from a standing position, if the person following him do likewise. A follower, who is praying from a sitting position, can pray behind an imam who is in the same situation.

131. c. The prayer of the imam should be valid would in the view of the one following him in prayer, so that the following ]in prayer[ can be sanctioned. For example, the follower may know, although not for a fact, that the water the imam used for wudhu was najis; so, should the imam start praying, it is not permissible for the person with knowledge about the najasah of water to pray behind him.

However, if the follower is not quite sure whether the imam performed wudhu using that najis water or another source of water, they must resolve such doubt by assuming that the imamís prayer is valid. They can, therefore, take him for an imam in prayer.

Both the imam and the follower might diverge about certain details of parts of prayer, as a matter of personal opinion( ijtihad) or as a result of their following, by way of taqleed, two different jurists. How can the person following in prayer resolve the situation?

A. Should the difference be of the type that if the ignorants were to commission, they would not be made to bear the consequences, and thus their prayer valid, there is no harm in praying behind the imam.

For example, the imam may be of the opinion that reciting tasbih once in the third and fourth ruku ; the persons who are praying behind him see it differently, i.e. according to them it is obligatory to recite it three times. Here, the imam is excused for reciting it once and the follower a therefore allowed to pray behind him.

Should the point of difference be of the type that the ignorants are not excused if they were to commission it and find out about their mistake later, the ones intending to pray behind the imam are not allowed to go ahead with their plan, should they be certain, and even if they have the slightest doubt, that the imam would naturally adopt the opposite opinion regarding the disputed point.

For example, the person intending to pray behind a given imam knows very well that the imam can tolerate performing wudhu with rose water; they would not. Therefor, since wudhu is a point for which the ignorant would not be forgiven if he made a lapse, it is not permissible for the follower to take for imam a person, unless they are absolutely sure that he did not perform his wudhu in the manner they view batil.

132. d. Should the surface of the area taken for prayer be conspicuously uneven, the imamís position should not be higher than that of the person following them in prayer by a measure of shibr (circa 32cm.) or more.

For example, the place of prayer could extend to cover a room and a courtyard. Suppose the imam were to stand in the room, whose surface is elevated, and the worshipper/s following him in prayer were to stand in the court. If the level of the raised section was more than 23 cm., it is not permissible for the imam to take his position there, and the congregation in the courtyard. However, it is permissible if the two positions were reversed.

If the unevenness of the surface is not that noticeable, such as in the case of a graded one, the imam can take stand in any position of that stretch of land.

133. Generally speaking, the jurists maintain that male imams take an advanced position over the worshipper following them in prayer. However, it is more likely )al-aqwa( that it is permissible to juxtapose their two positions. That is, it is not obligatory that the followers position be slightly or completely behind that of the imam.

That said, it is advisable not to ignore the opinion that espouses standing behind the imam on ihtiyat basis. Furthermore, in case the congregation consists of two men, the one who is following in prayer should stand on the right hand side slightly behind the imam in a measure that would result in making the sujood spot of the follower on a par with spot where the imam places his knees.

Accordingly, the position of the one following in prayer must not be ahead of that of the imam.

Since this is the case, the one doing the following must not be ahead of the imam in all such instances as ruku, sitting, and sujood.

How is congregational prayer conducted?

134. We have already discussed the manner in which solo, or independent, prayer is conducted. The prayer of the imam of a congregation is exactly the same as that prayed independently by any worshipper, except for niyyah, i.e. the imam should make niyyah that he is praying as imam.

That said, both end up with some different rules to cope with, not pertaining to the content of prayer, rather to the consequential actions to take remedial action to right a lapse.

For example, if the worshipper who is praying alone harbors a doubt about the real number of rukus of any prayer, such as that between three and four, they should settle for the greater number. The imam of a congregational prayer should rely on any member of the congregation who are known for their reliability.

The prayer of a member of a congregation is slightly different from that of an individual praying alone, both in manner and rules regulating it.

As you may know, we have already mentioned that the worshipper can pray behind an imam by joining in the congregation at any raka of the prayer, provided that they be able to catch up with the imam as he is standing before actually bowing down for ruku or while he is performing it, but before rising.

Now, we are going to discuss the manner in which the worshipper should conduct their prayer if they have joined in during the first ruku. We will then discuss the manner of prayer, if joining in the congregation took place during the second ruku and thereafter.

135. When the worshippers join in the congregation by making niyyah and reciting takbiratul ihram either simultaneously with or after the imam, they do not have to recite, because they are absolved of such a responsibility. As a matter of obligatory precaution, dhikr should be left to the imam too.

However, you may ask whether it is permissible for the member of congregation to recite if they so wish; the answer is:

A great deal depends on whether or not the imamís recitation can be heard by the member of congregation in any prayer where reciting audibly is the norm, such as maghrib, isha and subh. Should the worshipper be in a position to hear the imam, be it clearly or otherwise, they are advised not to recite. Conversely, it is permissible for them to do so. This is regardless of the worshippers objective behind the recitation, i.e. whether they mean it as part of the prayer or simply a usual recitation in the Holy Quran. However, the worshipper is better advised to recite inaudibly, yet listening is even more superior.

In a prayer where reciting inaudibly is the norm, it is obligatory on the worshippers to refrain from reciting; they may, though, resort to reciting tasbih or chanting the praise of Allah instead.

When the imam bows down for ruku, the follower should do the same. When the imam rises for a second ruku, the worshipper should follow suit; insofar as recitation and other matters are concerned, the remarks of the preceding paragraph should be noted.

Thus, the followers should take it upon themselves to perform all parts of prayer, and not rely on the imam except in the recitation of suratul-Fatiha and the second surah in both the first and second ruku. Upon getting as far as the third ruku, the follower could choose between reciting tasbih or surah al-Fatiha as is the case in holding a solo prayer.

The followers may join in prayer, while the imam is reciting, and inadvertently stay silent until after the imam has performed ruku and risen from it. No harm is done; the follower can still perform ruku and follow through.

The followers could recite takbiratul ihram, only to see the imam immediately bowing down for ruku. They should immediately follow suit. The same should be done when they join in while the imam is still in ruku, because recitation is the imamís responsibility.

136. Should the followers join in prayer while the imam is either standing or actually in the second ruku, they can recite takbiratul ihram and follow suit. They are therefore absolved of the responsibility of recitation. The remaining points discussed in the preceding paragraph apply. However, this ruku of the worshipper counts as the first one as opposed to its being the second one performed by the imam.

If joining in the congregation takes place just before the imam embarks on qunoot, it is mustahab for the worshippers to join him. After the imam rises from sujood to recite tashahhud, the worshippers are not required to do so, as it this is their first ruku; however, it is mustahab for them to assume a sitting position as though they are about to stand up and follow it through.

When the imam stands up to perform the third ruku, the followers should stand up for their second ruku. At this stage, it is obligatory on them to recite suratul-Fatiha and the second surah, for the imamís recitation in the first two rukus can compensate for the followerís recitation.

It is necessary for the follower to refrain from reciting audibly, even if reciting audibly is allowed for the prayer being performed. Where the followers are worried about the possibility of not keeping pace with the imam, before they finish reciting the second surah, they are free to leave it out and follow the imam in his ruku.

Should the followers be faced with the possibility of not being able to follow the imam out in his ruku, while they are still reciting al-Fatiha, they are not allowed to interrupt their recitation. They have to finish reciting it in the hope that they would be able to catch up with the imam. Failing that, they have to go solo in their prayer. Thus, they have to finish the reciting al-Fatiha and the second surah.

137. The followers may arrive late for the congregational prayer, making their debut in the third ruku. There may be two possibilities:

a. They may be in a position to join in the congregation while the imam is still standing. They should, therefore, recite suratul-Fatiha inaudibly, and the second surah where possible; if not, reciting al-Fatiha alone would do, should they be mindful of becoming out of kilter with imam.

b. Joining in while the imam is still in ruku would necessitate that the worshipper immediately assumes a ruku position following in the footsteps of the imam. Thus, they are relieved of the obligation of recitation.

In both cases, the worshippers must maintain inaudible recitation and can perform qunoot, if there is room for that. When the imam reaches the point where they embark on reciting tashahhud and tasleem in the last ruku, the followers should do likewise insofar as tashahhud is concerned, which will be their first, i.e. after their second ruku, and then go it alone to finish their prayer.

138 . On arriving at a congregation, while the imam is still standing, the worshippers did not know what stage of prayer the congregation has reached, i.e. it could by any of the four rukus. Thus, it is permissible for them to inaudibly recite al-Fatiha and the second surah. Should they discover that the imam was in their third or fourth ruku, the action they had taken would be deemed sound and with it their prayer. If it was the first or second ruku, no harm should have been done, i.e. the prayer still stands.

Rules Concerning Matters Arising from Congregational Prayer

139. We shall discuss below the rules that distinguish congregational prayer from a solo one.

Both the imam and the one following him in prayer are jointly responsible for any lapse concerning the exact number of rukus being performed. Any one of them who is confident that they are aware of the right number must be followed. This of course is contrary to the worshipper who is praying solo, where if faced with the same situation, they have to settle for the greater number of the disputed number of rukus.

As we already know )para. 113(, the extra sujood or ruku performed by the member of congregation can be tolerated, when it is done for the sake of following the imam through. This, though, is not allowed when you are holding prayer by yourself.

When the worshipper, who is praying solo, is intent on performing an extra sujood, although he knows this goes against the grain and the spirit of the laws, such action is bound to lead to invalidating his prayer.

In case the worshipper, either inadvertently or through ignorance, performed an extra ruku or extra two sujoods, his prayer would be deemed null and void. Both the imam and the one following him in prayer are treated in the same way in this regard.

140. If after taking part in congregational prayer, the worshipper discovers that such partaking was, for any reason, not valid, his prayer should still count. He is, therefore, not required to take further action, unless he was involved, for the sake of keeping pace with imam, in performing an extra raka or extra two sujoods in one ruku; this would require him to repeat his prayer. The same applies in the case of the worshippers doubt about the number of rukus. Should the worshipper rely on the imamís decision in that regard, only to find out that they were in the right and the imam in the wrong, they have to repeat their prayer.

[An examples of[ "deeming the prayer valid" could be that of a person praying behind another trusting in his rectitude and devoutness, only to find out that the imam was not worthy of the trust, for either being a wayward person, an unbeliever, not versed in proper recitation, or simply his prayer was found to be lacking. Another example is that of a person discovering that the congregation he took part in fell short of any of the requirements which make following in prayer a valid one.

6. Differences Between

an Obligatory Daily Prayer

and a Supererogatory One

141. As you may be aware, we have already discussed some differences between obligatory daily prayers and supererogatory ones. Here is a summary of the differences in rulings pertaining to these prayers:

a. It is obligatory on the worshipper to maintain a steady and repose state while performing the obligatory daily prayers; this is in contrast to supererogatory ones, where the mukallaf can perform them while walking or being aboard a moving vehicle, etc.

b. The worshipper, who is performing an obligatory daily prayer, is required to physically perform ruku and sujood; it will not suffice, if he were to point to ruku or sujood by any movement of their body, accentuating the nodding, for example, for sujood more than that made for ruku. That is, if they are performing it while in motion.

But, should he choose to perform it while standing still, it will not be accepted as proper, unless both ruku and sujood are performed in the usual manner where possible.

c. Where possible, it is obligatory on the worshippers to perform the obligatory prayer from a standing position. They can perform supererogatory prayers from a sitting position, although it may be within their grasp to perform it from a standing position. However, performing it from a standing position is more meritorious.

d. In an obligatory prayer, the worshippers are required to recite al-Fatiha and another surah in the first two rukus. This is not a prerequisite in a supererogatory one. It is permissible for the worshippers engaged in such a prayer to confine the recitation to al-Fatiha, yet reciting a second surah after it is more superior.

e. Should they choose, the worshippers embarking on a supererogatory prayer can recite, after al-Fatiha, any other surah, including those that contain the verses of sajdah; should they opt for that, they must perform sujood and follow the prayer through. This is not allowed in an obligatory prayer though.

The worshippers engaged in a supererogatory prayer cannot be penalized if they were to start reciting a particular surah, then switching to another, with their prayer remaining intact.

f. While it is not permissible to interrupt an obligatory prayer without a valid reason, this can be done to a supererogatory prayer at will.

g. Where doubt or uncertainty about the number of rukus performed arises in a supererogatory prayer, the prayer will not be rendered batil; accordingly, no precautionary steps are called for. The worshipper can settle for the lesser number or greater number of rukus, provided that espousing the latter would not cause the prayer to be null and void. This is contrary to the situation in an obligatory prayer where doubt about the number of rukus could annul prayer in certain situations and necessitate ihtiyat and remedial action in others.

h. It is obligatory to resort to sajdatay-as-sahu for inadvertently doing certain things in prayer; this is not the case in a supererogatory prayer at all.

i. Any extra rukn that the worshipper may perform by way of an oversight renders prayer batil. Supererogatory prayer is immune to this measure.

j. Accordingly, if the worshipper forgets a secondary part, ]i.e. not rukn[, of prayer and realizes that after he had got beyond it to a fundamental part, it is permissible for him to carry on, i.e. without repeating the missed part.

This is not the case in a supererogatory prayer, in that the worshippers are required to go back to the point where they think they made the error to rectify it and carry on from there, regardless of whether or not they have already engaged in a rukn or non-rukn part of prayer.

For example, forgetting to perform the second sujood of the first ruku, the worshippers carried on with their supererogatory prayer, only to realize their mistake after rising from the second ruku. They should have no alternative but to cancel the activity in hand, go back to performing the second sujood of the first ruku and carry on with their prayer from that point.

k.. There are parts of the obligatory prayer that have to be repeated by way of qadha at the end of prayer. This usually happens with parts such as sujood and tashahhud , when the worshippers realize their lapse after entering into a rukn activity.

In a supererogatory prayer, such a lapse warrants a different treatment. Discovering the mistake may occur while prayer is still in progress or after it has finished. If the worshipper has not done anything that would detract from its form and validity, he is required to repeat that missed part and all the subsequent parts. Should the discovery of the lapse take place after a while, his prayer can still count as valid; he is, therefore, not required to say qadha prayer.

Differences covering some other areas:

It is neither permissible to hold the majority of supererogatory prayers congregationally, nor to follow other people in performing them. Most of the obligatory prayers can be held thus.

It is permissible to hold congregational prayer for Istisqa and Eid prayers; some obligatory prayers, such as tawaf, cannot be held congregationally as there is no evidence to support that.

No adhan is called for in supererogatory prayers in general. It is a part of every obligatory prayer, and very much so in the obligatory daily ones. That is, it is not necessary in Ayat prayer, although it is an obligatory one.