Hurairah reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alehi Wasallam) said: “The Imam
is selected to be followed; therefore, do not differ with him. When he makes
the takbir, make the takbir, when he goes into Ruku’, make Ruku’. When he says
‘Allah hears him who praises Him,’ say ‘O Allah, our Lord, to You belongs the
Praise.’ When he goes into sajdah, make sajdah. If he prays sitting, then all
should be sitting.” This is related by the group. In the version by Ahmad and
Abu Dawud, the wording is “the imam is to be followed. If he makes the takbir,
make the takbir, and do not make the takbir until he does so. When he goes into
ruku’, make ruku’, and do not perform ruku’ until he does so. When he goes into
sajdah, make sajdah, and do not make sajdah until he does so.”
Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alehi Wasallam) said: “Do you not fear that if you raise your head before the imam Allah may change your head into that of a donkey!” This is related by the group.
Anas reports that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “O people, I am your imam, so do not precede me in ruku’ or in Sujjud or in Siyam or in sitting or in finishing.” This is related by Ahmad and Muslim .
Al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib says: “We prayed with the Messenger of Allah and when he said ‘Allah hears him who praises Him,’ none of us would bend his back until the Messenger of Allah had put his forehead upon the ground.” This is related by the group.
Constitution of a congregation
One person with the imam would constitute a congregation even if the other person is a child or a woman.
Ibn ‘Abbas says: “I stayed with my Aunt Maimunah and the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam got up to pray during the night. I got up to pray with him and stood on his left and the Prophet took me by my hand and put me on his right side.”
Sa’id and Abu Hurairah both report that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alehi Wasallam) said: “Whoever gets up during the night and wakes up his spouse and they pray two rak’at together, they both will be recorded among those (men and women) who remember Allah much.” This is related by Abu Dawud . Abu Sa’ id narrates that a man entered the Mosque, and the Prophet and his companions had already prayed. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Who will give charity to him by praying with him?” So, a man from the people stood and prayed with him. This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi who calls it Hasan. Ibn Abi Shaibah relates that it was Abu Bakr who stood and prayed with the man. At-Tirmizhi uses this hadith as proof that a group can pray in congregation in a mosque in which the congregational prayer had already been made. He says that this is the opinion of Ahmad and Ishaq. Other scholars say that they should each pray individually and this is the opinion of Sufyan, Malik, Ibn al-Mubarak and ash-Shaf’i.
An Imam may change his place and become a follower
If the regular imam or appointed imam is not present, it is permissible to appoint someone else to perform the duty of imam. If the regular imam appears during the prayers, the substitute imam may move back to the rows and allow the regular imam to take over. Al-Bukhari and Muslim record that Sahl ibn Sa’d said: “The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam went off to take care of the affairs of the tribe of ‘Amr ibn ‘Auf. The time for Salah came and the mu’azhzhin went to Abu Bakr and said: ‘Will you lead the people in Salah and I shall make the Iqamah?’ Abu Bakr agreed. [While he was] leading the prayer, the Messenger of Allah appeared and joined the rows. The people clapped [their thighs with their hands] but Abu Bakr would not turn around during the prayer. When most of the people began clapping, he turned and saw the Prophet...[who] pointed to Abu Bakr to stay in his place. Abu Bakr raised his hands and praised Allah because of what the Prophet had told him. Then, Abu Bakr moved back until he joined the rows and the Prophet stepped forward [to lead]. After he had prayed, he went to Abu Bakr and said: O Abu Bakr, what prevented you from staying there when I told you to do so?’ Abu Bakr said: ‘It is not fit for the son of Abu Quhafah to lead the Prophet in prayer.’ Then the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Why did I see most of you clapping? If you find something in the prayer you should say Subhanallah, for when you say it, it will attract his (i.e. Imam’s) attention and clapping [thighs with hands] is for the women.’”
Catching up with imam or the congregation
Whoever joins a congregation, he should perform the opening takbir while standing and then move directly to the act that the congregation may be performing, for instance, if the congregation is prostrating one should perform the opening takbir and then join it in the prostration. However, such a person is not considered as having performed the rak’ah unless he performs the ruku’ (bowing), even if he just bows and puts his hands on his knees, when the imam is finishing his ruku’.
Abu Hurairah reports that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “If you come to the Salah and we are in sajdah, then make sajdah with us but do not count it [as a rak’ah]. And whoever ‘catches’ the ruku’, he catches the Salah.” This is related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahih, and by al-Hakim, who considers it Sahih, in his Al-Mustadrak.
When it is permissible to not attend Congregation
Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet ordered the Mu’azhzhin to say: “Pray in your places,” on a cold, stormy night during a journey. This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Jabir said: “We went on a journey with the Prophet and it rained upon us, so he said: ‘Whoever wishes may pray in his stopping place.’” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi.
Ibn ‘Abbas said to the Mu’azhzhin, on a rainy day: “When you say ‘I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,’ do not say ‘Come to the prayer,’ but instead say ‘Pray in your houses.”’ The people didn’t seem to like it, so he asked: “Are you surprised by that? One better than me did it [the Prophet]. The congregational prayer is a strict order but I hated that you should go out and walk in the mud and on slippery ground.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim. According to Muslim’s version, this occurred on a Friday.
What applies in case of cold would also apply in cases of extreme heat, darkness, and fear of an oppressor. Ibn Batal writes: “The scholars are agreed on the permissibility of not attending the congregation due to heavy rain, darkness, wind, and so on.”
Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet (sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “If the food is presented to one of you, do not rush but fulfill your need of it even if the Salah has begun.” This is related by al-Bukhari.
‘Aishah narrates that she heard the Prophet (Sallallahu Alehi Wasallam) say: “There is no prayer when the meal is presented nor when one needs to answer the call of nature.” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
Abu ad-Darda’ says: “It is a sign of the understanding of a person that he fulfills his needs first in order to make his prayer with a clear mind.” This is related by al-Bukhari.
To be continued