Is Praying in the Mosque Obligatory?


Question: I have read on your website its not obligatory to pray salat in mosque. However, I read in hadith prophet wished to burn down their houses. Also, another sahih hadith that says those who do not come for prayer without excuse no prayer for that person. I have heard saying burning was referring to hypocrites who do not attend. But found that the hadith is talking about anyone, not just hypocrites. In my opinion, this is too extreme. But I fear I am blindly following the scholars.

Answer:
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Assalam’aleykum, I pray this finds you in the best of states.

Jazakum Allah khayr for your question!

The Prophet – peace be upon him – is reported as having said that Praying in congregation is twenty-seven times better than praying alone [Bukhari, Muslim].

According to the Hanafi school, it is an emphasized sunna for men who have no excuse to not pray in the congregation [Taqrirat Ar-Rafi’i on Hashiyat Ibn Abidin].

To get used to missing the congregational prayer is sinful [Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat Maraqi al-Falah].

The sunna is fulfilled even by praying in a congregation outside of the mosque, even though it is better to perform it in the mosque [Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat Maraqi al-Falah].

You can and should trust scholars

Allah, Most High, states in the Qur’an:Ask those who have knowledge if you do not know” [ Qur’an 16.43].

A madhhab is a school of Islamic law, and each madhhab is based on a systematic methodology of interpreting the Qur’an and Prophetic sunna. Following a madhhab is not an end in itself; rather, it is a means to follow the Qur’an and Sunna in a sound, systematic, and sustainable manner.

It is a sound way of following the Qur’an and Sunna, because each madhhab has a sound and tested methodology of understanding, interpreting, and applying the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) to the issues of our life.
It is a systematic way because the scholars have dealt with issues that Muslims face in their worship, dealings, and conduct, and have given guidance-based answers that are relevant and reliable.

It is a sustainable way because the scholars have distinguished between the degrees of emphasis of rulings—between what is obligatory and recommended; between the prohibited and the disliked; between the preferable and less preferable. By following a madhhab, you will not be overwhelmed by the sense of having to “do everything all at once”. Please see:  https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/how-do-i-choose-a-school-of-thought-madhhab-why/

Understanding Hadiths on ones own should be avoided

It is very easy to understand a verse of the Qur’an or a Hadith erroneously. Trying to do so alone will almost invariably lead one to grave mistakes. Please see: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/madhhabstlk.htm

The explanation of the Hadith you have mentioned Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, By Him in Whose hand my soul is, I seriously considered ordering someone to collect firewood, ordering the prayer be called, appointing a man to lead the prayer and then coming up behind certain men and burning their houses down about them [Agreed upon].Ibn ‘Allan explains that this hadith on burning the houses of the people who didn’t pray in the mosque had a specific context. It was about the hypocrites who didn’t attend the congregation and didn’t even pray the Isha prayer alone. This is supported by other narrations of this hadith where the context is explicit [Ibn Allan, Dalit al-Falihin Sharh Riyad al-Salihin].

It is true that this hadith has been used by some scholars that the prayer in congregation in the mosque is obligatory (fard). It is also the basis for another strong opinion in the Hanafi school that deems the prayer in congregation mandatory (wajib) [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar].

But this hadith is not the only one on this subject. The proof for the prayer in the congregation to be an emphasized sunna is a hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) who states that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) taught them that the prayer in the mosque is from the sunna of guidance   [Muslim; Nasb Ar-Raya]. And Allah knows best.

I hope that the above answers your question. If something is unclear please don’t hesitate to ask again.

May Allah Most High grant you the best of this world and the next. Please keep us in your du’as!

Wassalam

[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani