Answered by Sidi Waliyullah Amin
Question: I share my house with two other Muslim roommates. We often pray Salaah in congregation whenever we are at home. I learned Tajweed and memorized sections of the Quran under a scholar. My roommates often lead the Salaah and I realized I know more of the Quran and have a more correct pronunciation than my roommates. I do not know how to be humble and yet let them know that I should be leading the congregation because of the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) that the most learned in the Quran should lead Salaah. How do I deal with this situation?
Also, what is the ruling on praying behind people who follow another school (as I’ve encountered situations where this seems to be an issue)?
The Ruling of Having the Most Learned Person Lead the Prayer
Regarding your first question, it’s sunnah, or from the perfection of the congregation, to have the most learned lead the prayer, whereas to avoid dispute is essential (wajib). As long as the Imam’s recitation is free from major errors then this issue shouldn’t be allowed to cause dispute.
It is a condition for the validity of the prayer that the Imam knows enough Quran to fulfill the amount that is mandatory for prayer. But after the conditions are met, then the one who is actually most entitled to lead is the one who know the rules of prayer best.
Minimum Required Recitation for the Imam
The Imam should be able to recite at least one Ayah properly in order for the prayer to be valid. Properly means that he’s able to recite every letter correctly from its point of articulation (makhraj). The characteristics of the letters, or sifaat, and the other rules (ahkam) of tajweed (e.g. ikhfa, idgham) are not considered essential in this issue.
If they are not able to do this and they still insist on leading, then don’t pray with them. In this case you should inform them (and make dua for them) because their prayer is invalid. The only way their prayer would be valid is if they are actively attempting to mend the essential deficiencies in their recitation, even if only by sincere intention. However, in this case he still may not lead until he rectifies those essential deficiencies.
Praying Behind Someone Who Follows a Different Madhab
As for your second question it’s completely permissible to follow someone of another madhhab. The madhahib are the most scholarly rendition of Islamic jusrispudence and the differences are all valid and strongly substantiated.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani