Can I Pray in a Mosque Which Follows Another School of Thought?

Shafi'i Fiqh
Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

The mosque I go to is Hanafi as their calendar time for Asr is the later Asr time. I used to follow the Hanafi opinion in reference to wudu, but now, after researching wudu, I found out their way of rubbing the arm (from the wrist to the arm) is wrong. Does this mean I cannot pray in a mosque that follows the Hanafi opinion, as their imam may have done wudu by the Hanafi opinion?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Thank you for your question. Yes, you certainly can pray in a mosque in which the worshippers follow the interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah according to the Hanafi school of Islamic law.

All of the Sunni schools of sacred law are valid to follow, and their followers can pray behind an imam of another school, as has been attested to by scholars and witnessed for centuries in the Muslim world. This is because the ideal method of purification and prayer according to each school of thought is valid and acceptable to others, and religious scholars and imams would be assumed to be doing this. [Burhan al-Din al-Bukhari, Al Muhit al Burhani]

The mosque itself is one of the Houses of Allah – it is not “Hanafi” in itself, and all the mosques of Ahl us-Sunna was l-Jama‘a are fine to pray in regardless of the school of thought the imam follows. We should not create division between the mosques based on differing but equally valid legal schools.

Also, it would be incorrect to say that the Hanafi opinion on washing the arm is wrong. Allah Most High says in the Qur’an in the verse that teaches us the basics of wudu, “… when you stand for prayer, wash your face and your hands up to the elbows…” [Quran 5:6]

Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) support washing from the hands to the elbows as well. [Bukhari, Sahih]

Therefore the majority view of all of Ahl us-Sunnah is that wudu is ideally from the tips of the fingers up to and including the elbows. Still, this is not obligatory to do in the Hanafi school, but only ideal. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al Falah]

Therefore, what you read online was simply a valid difference of opinion, not proving that the other opinion was definitely wrong. For example, from the Shafi’i school, Imam Nawawi mentions that only one with water poured for him should start from the elbow ideally. Yet other opinions in the school state otherwise and agree that whether one is washing by themselves or poured for by another, one should start with the fingertips. So differences of opinion exist on this issue. However, this is not an issue of validity either way. [Nawawi, Rawda al-Talibin]

Therefore, I advise you to be very careful in doing “research” online by yourself for Islamic legal issues and rushing to conclusions, as you may only see one opinion and mistakenly believe it is the only right one. This is why seeking knowledge from a reliable and mainstream source and asking questions from an answer service such as this one is safer and more authentic than independent research on the internet.

SeekersGuidance Academy offers several courses on fiqh according to different schools of law that you can take to learn more. May Allah Most High bless you in your endeavor for Islamic knowledge.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdullah Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.