Congregational Prayer

Friday, September 07, 2018

Performing the prayers in congregation is a Sunnah mu’akkadah. Many hadith discuss the superiority and excellence of prayers in congregation. Such a hadith include the following:

Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “Prayer in congregation is superior to a prayer performed individually by twenty-seven degrees.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim. Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “The prayer of a man in congregation is twenty-five times more superior (in reward) to his prayer in his house or market - and this is because he makes the wudu’ and perfects it and goes to the mosque with the sole purpose of performing the salah. He does not take a step without being raised a degree and having one of his sins erased. When he prays, as long as he does not lose his wudu, the angels keep on praying [for him] ‘O Allah, bless him. O Allah, have mercy on him.’ And he is considered in salah as long as he is waiting for the salah.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim, and it is presented in al-Bukhari’s wording.

 Abu Hurairah also reports that a blind man said to the Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah, I have no guide to guide me to the mosque.” He asked the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam for permission to pray in his house and the Prophet gave it to him. Then, when he turned to go, the Prophet called him and said: “Do you hear the call to prayer?” The blind man said “yes.” The Prophet then said: “Then respond to it!” [by coming to the mosque.] This is related by Muslim.

 Abu Hurairah also reports that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “By Him in whose hand is my soul! I have considered ordering a fire to be kindled and then ask someone to lead the people in salah. And then go to the men [who did not attend the prayer] and burn their houses over them.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

 ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud says: “If anyone would like to meet Allah tomorrow as a Muslim, he should persevere in observing these five prayers whenever the call for them is made, for Allah has chosen for your Prophet the way of right guidance. And the [five prayers in congregation] are part of this right guidance. If you were to pray them in your houses, as this man who stays behind in his house, you would be leaving a Sunnah of your Prophet.

 If you leave the Sunnah of your Prophet, you would go astray. Verily, I have seen a time when no one stayed away from them [the congregational prayers] except for the hypocrites who were well known for their hypocrisy. A man would be brought, supported by two people [due to his weakness] until he was placed in a row.” This is related by Muslim.

 Abu ad-Darda’ reports that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “If there are three men in a village or desert and salah is not established among them, then the Satan takes mastery over them. So be with the congregation since the wolf devours the remote (stray) sheep.” This is related by Abu Dawud with a hasan chain.

 Women and congregational prayers 

It is better for women to pray in their houses than to attend congregational prayers. However, they may go to the mosque and attend the congregational prayer if they avoid wearing or using any attractive or tempting adornment or perfume.

 Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “Do not prevent the women from going to the mosques, although their houses are better for them.” Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet said: “Do not keep the slave girls of Allah from the mosques of Allah. And they are to go out unperformed.” These two hadith were related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Abu Hurairah also reports that the Prophet said: “Any woman who uses some scent should not be present with us during the night prayer.” This is related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and an-Nasa’i with a hasan chain. As stated earlier, it is better for women to pray in their houses. Ahmad and at-Tabarani record that Umm Humaid as-Sa’diyah came to the Messenger of Allah and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I love to pray with you.” The Prophet said: “I am aware of that, but your salah in your residence is better for you than your salah in your people’s mosque. And your salah in your people’s mosque is better than your salah in the [larger] congregational Mosque.”

 Praying at a Larger and More Distant Mosque 

It is preferable to pray in a mosque that is farther away and that has a larger congregation.

Muslim records from Abu Musa that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “The one who gets the greatest reward for a prayer is the one who walks the farthest distance.” Muslim also records that Jabir said: “The area around the mosque became vacant and the tribe of Salamah wanted to move there. When this news reached the Messenger of Allah, he said: ‘It has reached me that you want to move closer to the mosque?’

 They said: ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah, we desire that.’ The Prophet said: ‘O tribe of Salamah, your dwellings will record your steps.’” Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others have recorded this on the authority of Abu Hurairah. Ubayy ibn Ka’b reported that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “The salah of a man with another man is purer than the salah of a man by himself. [In the same way,] his salah with two men is purer than his salah with only one man, and what is more, it is most dear to Allah.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban. Ibn as-Sakin, al-’Uqaily and al-Hakim classify it as Sahih.

Going to the Mosque with Calm and Dignity 

It is preferred for one to walk to the mosque with calm and dignity and not in a hurry or rushing. This is because the person is considered to be in prayer when he is going to the salah (and also while he is waiting for it). Abu Qatadah says: “We were praying with the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam when we heard the clamoring of some men. When they had prayed, the Prophet inquired: ‘What was the matter with you?’ They answered: ‘We were hurrying for the salah.’ He said: ‘Do not do that...when you come to the salah come in peace and calm, and pray what you can with congregation and complete what you have missed.’” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “When you hear the Iqamah, proceed to the prayer with calm and dignity and do not rush. Pray what you can (with congregation) and complete what you miss.” This is related by the group except for at-Tirmizhi.

  The Imam Should be “Easy” on His Followers 

Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet said: “If one of you leads the people in prayer, he should be “easy,” on them for among the people are the weak, sick, and aged. If one prays by himself, one may make it as long as one wishes.” This is related by the group. It is narrated from Anas that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wassalam said: “Sometimes I enter prayer and I intend to prolong it, but then I hear a child crying, and I shorten my prayer thinking of the distress of the child’s mother.”

 Al-Bukhari and Muslim record that Anas said: “I have not prayed behind anyone who prayed a lighter salah or a more complete prayer than that of the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam.” Abu ‘Umar ibn Abdul Barr said: The scholars agree that it is preferable for an imam to make the prayer light while preserving the minimum without which salah is incomplete and without leaving off any part of the salah or shortening part of it [not performing it properly]. The Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam prohibited the pecking like a crow. Once he saw a man who did not complete his ruku’ and he told him: ‘Go back and pray for you have not prayed.’ And he said: ‘Allah does not look to one who does not straighten his back during ruku’ and sujjud.’ I do not know of any difference of opinion among the scholars concerning the fact that it is preferred for an imam to be ‘easy’ on his followers while making the prayer properly. It is related that ‘Umar said: ‘Do not make people dislike Allah, by making the salah so long that it should become hard on those praying behind you.”’

 The Imam may Prolong the First Rak’ah to Allow Others to Join 

It is permitted for the imam to prolong the first rak’ah while waiting for others to join the congregation. In the same way, it is preferred for him to wait for people who are coming during the bowings and during the final sitting.

 Abu Qatadah reports that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam would prolong the first rak’ah and the people suspected that he did it to allow the late-comers to join the first rak’ah. Abu Sa’id says: “If the (congregational) salah was begun, one could go to al-Baqi’, relieve himself, and make wudu’, and return and find the Prophet still in the first rak’ah for he would prolong it (first rak’ah).” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, Ibn Majah, and an-Nasa’i.

 To be Continued