Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
What would be better if one is unable to pray in congregation at the earliest valid time? Should I pray with a later (Hanafi) congregation or with my wife at home?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide us to the belief and way of life that is pleasing to Him. Amin.
Concerning your question, you may pray the obligatory prayer with your wife (intending it as obligatory) and then repeat it as an obligatory prayer at the masjid with the later congregation (if you choose to do so). The second prayer will count as a supererogatory prayer for you, and Allah knows best.
You may also pray the supererogatory prayer (the two units of sunna before the obligatory prayer), in which your wife could follow you for her obligatory prayer. Thus she attains the reward of a congregation in this manner, and you may then attain the reward of the bigger congregation at the masjid as well.
It is important to note that your prayer with your wife is also counted as a congregation, and Allah knows best.
Repeating an Obligatory Prayer to Give Someone a Congregation
Abu Sa‘id Al-Khudri reported that a man once arrived after the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) had finished leading the obligatory prayer. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Who will give charity to this man?” Then someone stood and prayed with the man. [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) once prayed the Dawn Prayer in Masjid Al-Khif, after which he saw two men sitting at the back of the masjid who did not pray behind him. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) asked them: “What prevented you from praying with us?” They said: “Oh Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace), we prayed on the way here.” He said: “When you have prayed on the road (elsewhere), and you come to the Masjid finding a congregation praying, then pray with them, and it will be a supererogatory prayer for the two of you.” [Tirmidhi]
In the above narrations, there is evidence that it is recommended (mandub) to repeat a prayer that one has already prayed alone or in a congregation, in another congregation, as well as proving that one leader (imam) and one follower (ma’mum), such as a spouse, forms a congregation. [Nawawi, Al-Majmu‘ Sharh Al-Muhadhdhab]
The Intention in the First and the Repeat Prayer
When one has already performed one’s prescribed prayer alone or in a group and finds another group prayer being performed, it is recommended to repeat one’s prayer with them, intending the obligatory prayer. The first would fulfill one’s obligation of the prescribed prayer, but one intends to repeat the prayer. Its reward is that of a supererogatory prayer, and Allah knows best. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]
Praying a Supererogatory Prayer (Sunna) While Someone Follows Praying an Obligatory Prayer (Fard)
When the imam performs a supererogatory prayer, and the follower performs a prescribed prayer or vice versa, the group prayer is valid. [Misri, ʿUmda Al-Salik]
Based on the above ruling, you may also pray the supererogatory prayer (the two units of sunna before the obligatory prayer), in which your wife could follow you for her obligatory prayer. Thus she attains the reward of a congregation in this manner, and you may then attain the bigger congregation at the masjid for your obligatory prayer as well. All praise is only for Allah, Who has made serving Him easy for us, and Allah knows best.
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.