How Do I Pray as a Latecomer in the Second or Final Cycle of the Prayer?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad


I have been struggling with this since I pray at the mosque. Moreover, I am Shafi’i, while almost all other people are praying the Hanafi way or Salafi way. I don’t know whom to ask. How do I perform tashahhud, for example, if I miss the first rak`a of prayer & start my prayer with the Imam in his second rak`a? What if I get the last rak`a? Do I have to perform all the duas in the final sitting? That means I would have done it twice in that case.


Thank you for your question. May Allah make it easy for you to follow your school correctly and perform your prayer well. Please consider taking a course with us on the basics of worship.

A Latecomer

Shaykh Hamza Karamli mentions in his answer linked below:

“If he is latecomer (masbuq), such as if he catches two rak‘as of a four rak‘a prayer, then according to Ramli, he should finish the final tashahhud and whatever follows it (including the blessings on the family of the Prophet), whereas according to Ibn Hajar, he should not complete it, but rather (h: just recite the tashahhud) and then perform some remembrance of Allah or supplication.

(…) If the tashahhud is the final tashahhud for the imam and not the first tashahhud for the (h: latecomer) follower, there is agreement that he should either complete the tashahhud (h: and whatever follows it) out of following the imam or busy himself with some remembrance of Allah or supplication.

If the tashahhud is not the first tashahhud for the (h: latecomer) follower and is the first tashahhud for the imam, then there is agreement that he should not complete what follows the tashahhud but rather either (1) remain silent or (2) busy himself with remembrance of Allah or supplication. This (h: the latter) is superior, just like what has preceded above. [Zakaria al-Ansari, Fath al-‘Allam]”

Please see the full answer here:
My Imam Finished His Tashahhud After Me

Joining in the Last Cycle

Please see your answer here:
How Should a Latecomer Complete His Prayer? (Shafi’i School)

Extra Details about the Latecomer

It says in the Reliance of the Traveller:

“When one is a latecomer to a group prayer, it is recommended not to stand up to finish one’s missed rak’as until the imam has said both Salams. It is permissible to stand after he has said just one, but if one stands before he has said the first Salam it invalidates one’s prayer, unless one purposely intended to cease participation in the group prayer before doing so. (…)

When one arrives late to a group prayer in which the imam is already bowing, it is obligatory for one to say the opening Allahu Akbar while standing upright, after which one says a second Allahu Akbar before one bows to join the group (O: though if one only says it once, intending the opening Allahu Akbar thereby, then omitting the second Allahu Akbar of bowing does no harm, as it is sunna). If any part of one’s opening Allahu Akbar occurs when one is not standing upright, one’s prayer is invalid.

A latecomer is considered to have performed the rak’a if he manages to say ‘Allahu akbar,’ bow, and remain motionless a moment therein before the imam straightens up beyond the definitional limit of bowing. If one is uncertain as to whether the imam straightened up past the limits of bowing before one reached that position or whether it was after, then one has not performed the rak’a (O: as one assumes, when uncertain, that one had not yet reached it). Nor does the rak’a count for such a follower when it does not count for the imam, such as when the imam nullifies his ablution (wudu), or has overlooked something impure on his person, or has mistakenly added a fifth rak’a to his prayer.

If one does not join the group until the imam has straightened up from bowing, or thereafter, then one follows his motions, saying ‘Allahu akbar’ with him and repeating ‘Subhan Allah’ and the Testification of Faith (Tashahhud) when he does, even when this does not correspond to the rak’a in which one’s own Testification of Faith would be if one were praying alone.

If one joins the group just as the imam is prostrating or sitting in the final Testification of Faith, then one prostrates or sits with him (N: after having recited one’s opening Allahu Akbar while standing) without (A: a second) Allahu Akbar (O: though one does say ”Subhan Allah“ in prostration and recite the Testification of Faith with the imam, in deference to his leadership).

If the final Testification of Faith of the imam coincides with one’s own first Testification, then when the imam finishes with Salams, one stands up with an Allahu Akbar to finish one’s prayer; though if the imam’s final Testification does not coincide with one’s first Testification, one rises to finish without an Allahu Akbar.”


In summary, if you join in the second rak`a, you should recite your first tashahhud as you normally would, and your next tashahhud also like your first tashahhud (which would be the imam’s last tashahhud). Then after you rise to make up your cycle, and you are sitting in your own last tashahhud, you would recite the full Tahiyyat, the Abrahamic prayer and a dua.

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin and completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.