Answered by Ustadha Umm Ihsan
Question: At what point is one considered to have missed a cycle (rak`at) of prayer when entering late on a congregation. If they are in bowing (ruku`) by the time you give your opening takbir, have you missed it, or is it at the prostration (sajda)? Does it differ between loud and silent salah?
Answer: Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahimi
The Companion Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Khattab, Allah be pleased with both father and son, said: “If you catch the Imam whilst bowing and bow (with him) before he raises his head, then you have caught the cycle of the prayer (rak’a). If he raises his head whilst you are bowing, then you have missed the cycle of the prayer (rak’a).” [al-Bayhaqi]
Explanation of the Hadith
According to the aforementioned narration, the scholars conclude that if one enters the group prayer late and catches the Imam whilst he is standing for recitation (qiyam) or in the bowing position (ruku’), then he has caught this cycle of the prayer (rak’a). Catching the cycle of the prayer means that he would not need to make up this particular cycle after the Imam gives the final salam. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
If the Imam has returned to the standing position before the follower has a chance to bow with the Imam, then the follower has not caught this cycle of the prayer (rak’a). As such, he must make up this particular cycle of the prayer after the Imam gives the final salam. [Ibid]
Method of Joining the Group Prayer as a Latecomer
1. One makes the opening takbir whilst standing.
2. Thereafter, one joins the Imam in whichever position the Imam is in, even if it means following the Imam in prostration or the final sitting.
3. If one joined during the bowing position (ruku’) in the first cycle of prayer (rak’a), then he caught the first cycle of the prayer. He does not need to make-up anything when the Imam gives the final salam.
4. If one joins during the bowing position (ruku’) in the second cycle of the prayer (rak’a), then he caught the second cycle of the prayer. However, he needs to make-up the first cycle when the Imam gives the final salam and so forth.
A side note is that it is not a condition that the follower make two takbirs (i.e. one for the opening of the prayer and another for the bowing position). Rather, it is permissible to make one takbir and intend the opening takbir and the bowing takbir simultaneously. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]
There is no difference in the ruling if it was a loud or silent prayer.
Barak Allah fikum
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Umm Ihsan is a female student of Islamic knowledge from the US. She studies with leading Hanafi scholars from Syria and elsewhere.