Fatawa >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
The following points are precursors to the rules concerning
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.