Can I Pray Behind Anyone Who Is Already Praying?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

In the hospital I work there is a culture of brothers coming into the prayer room and standing next to any individual praying to make it into a congregation. Is this permissible as it is unknown what prayer the individual is praying and their intention?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah,

According to the Hanafi School, the imam must be praying a stronger prayer than the follower. Thereafter, the follower’s prayer must be equivalent to, namely, the same obligatory prayer, or lesser, such as a repetition of the midday prayer, than that of the imam.

Moreover, the basis with regards to the men’s prayer is doing so in congregation. Hence, a man does not need a separate intention to lead other men, contrary to the general case when leading women.

Subsequently, you can join a praying person if he is praying the same obligatory (fard) prayer as you, for example, yet not if he is in a lesser state, namely, in the case that he is praying his sunnas.

Practically, you should make a judgement, erring on the side of caution depending on the situation. And consider praying your sunnas in a corner such that others wouldn’t normally consider joining you.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah (2.394-395)]

Please also see: Ending Prayer Before the Imam and Intending a Different Prayer to His and A Follower Praying a Different Prayer than the Imam in the Maliki School

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

Can I Choose a Latecomer to Be My Imam When I Missed the Congregational Prayer With the Imam of the Mosque?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaikum

We arrived in the mosque to pray congregational prayer but the Imam already made the salutations. We also saw some latecomers who caught some rak’ats in the prayer. Should we have chosen one of the latecomers to be our Imam?

Answer:Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

According to the Hanafi school, you cannot join in congregation with a person who is making up his missed cycles (rak`ats). This is because he is, legally, basing his prayer on the imam’s, and congregants with the imam cannot lead others at the same time.

In your situation, therefore, you would appoint an imam between yourselves and make up the prayer in a second congregation, away from the mihrab (and main congregation) and without another call to prayer (adhan).

[Mulla Khusro, Durar al-Hukkam; Tahtawi, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi `ala Maraqi al-Falah]

Please also see: Are Multiple Congregation Prayers for the Same Prayer in the Same Mosque Allowed?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.

What Is the Minimum Age for Leading the Congregational Prayer?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaikum,

What is the minimum age for leading the congregational prayer?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

The minimum age requirement for the imam is that he be an adult (i.e. has reached puberty) because children are not morally responsible (mukallaf), thus their prayers are considered to be non-binding and voluntary (nawafil), and you cannot pray the obligatory prayer behind somebody who is praying a voluntary prayer.

Similarly you cannot pray a [binding] voluntary prayer behind somebody whose prayer is non-binding, namely, that of a child.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah, with Tahtawi’s Gloss (hashiya)]

Consider taking the following free class at SeekersHub: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Basic Hanafi Jurisprudence (STEP)

And Allah alone gives success.

في حاشية الطحطاوي على مراقي الفلاح: (قوله : والبلوغ) فلا يصح إقتداء بالغ بصبي مطلقا سواء كان في فرض لأن صلاة الصبي ولو نوى الفرض نفل أو في نفل لأن نفله لا يلزمه أي ونفل المقتدي لازم مضمون عليه فيلزم بناء القوي على الضعيف اهـ.

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Must I Repeat Prayers Behind an Imam With a Short Beard or Bare Head?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I have been advised that a prayer must be repeated if it is performed behind someone who does not have a fist length beard or his head covered and wears short sleeved clothing. Is it correct?

Should I pray alone when on more than one occasion I have noticed that the Imam has left the toilet seat up, causing me to doubt his purity?

Answer: Assalamu `alaykum

The most appropriate position to adopt for the laity is that one does not have to repeat such prayers.

The reasoning that is forwarding for repeating prayers where the Imam performs such actions is:

(a) the mentioned acts are prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman).
(b) any prayer in which a prohibitively disliked act occurs is necessary to repeat.
(c) the Imam committing any of the mentioned acts is committing a prohibitively disliked action.
(d) therefore, anyone praying behind him must repeat his prayer.

Are These Acts Prohibitively Disliked?

The first question that needs to be tackled is whether these acts are in fact prohibitively disliked. The answer to this is that some of them are not prohibitively disliked and there is differences of opinion on others.

1. Praying Bare-Headed

In the case of praying bare-headed, the statements of a number of Hanafi scholars indicate that the dislikedness is slight or contrary to what is best, not one that is prohibitive in nature, which would entail that repeating such a prayer is not necessary. Further, this dislikedness is not unconditional but when the act is performed for a specific reason.

Imam al-Kasani states that covering the head with a turban is “better” (afdal) than praying bare-headed because it indicates esteem for the prayer. Similarly, according to Imam al-Shurunbali the dislikedness relates back to a lack of respect indicated by such an action, which in the current context generally suggests that the opposite ruling of covering the head is of recommendation. [al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i (1:301); al-Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah (365)]

The majority of Hanafi scholars specified the dislikedness of praying bare-headed when it was done out of laziness (takasul). They understood this as referring to an individual knowing the value of praying with his head-covered but simply choosing to ignore it, an act that was viewed as showing a lack of respect for the prayer.

While there were some scholars who deemed praying bare-headed as unconditionally disliked, this does not seem to be the dominant position of the school. Rather, if one prayed bare-headed out of a sense of humility, a number of scholars stated that it would be recommended to not cover, while others stated it would still better to wear a head-cover. [Ibn Maza, Muhit al-Burhani (2:139); Sadr al-Shahid, Sharh al-Wiqaya (1:141-42); al-Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah (365)]

In light of the above, one would not have to repeat a prayer wherein the Imam was bare-headed since: (i) it is not a prohibitively disliked action, and (ii) there is little way for one to know of the Imam’s intention i.e. is he doing it out of humility or otherwise.

In connection to the latter point, it should be noted that there are other views from scholars of the four schools that treat the issue as a less serious offense. The opinions range from permissibility of praying without a head-covering to slight dislikedness. Some scholars, for example, stated that head-covering is a customary action that becomes recommended if deemed an act of adornment by a particular society. Otherwise, it would not be specifically recommended. [al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat (2:489)]

2. Praying in a Short-Sleeved Shirt

There is nothing wrong with praying in a short-sleeved shirt. It would only be deemed slightly disliked to do so if it is customary considered “lowly clothing”. Even if this were the case, one would not have to repeat a prayer where the Imam wears such clothing as it is not a prohibitively disliked action. [Sadr al-Shahid, Sharh al-Wiqaya (1:142)]

3. The Beard

The issue concerning the beard is perhaps more controversial. Leading scholars of the Hanafi school considered a fistful beard to be necessary (wajib) although a number of scholars over the past century have considered an actual fistful to be a confirmed sunna based on what they view as being rightly entailed by the principles of the school and the statements of earlier jurists. This is the position adopted by a number of my own teachers.

Opinion is also divided among other schools. The Shafi`i school, for example, considers the beard a sunna and its trimming below a fistful to be an act that is disliked but not sinful. [al-Haytami, Tuhfa al-Muhtaj (9:376)] A number of scholars in the Maliki school do not stipulate a particular length for the beard but prohibit trimming in a manner that leads to disfigurement and/or define length by the customary practice of people. [al-Nafrawi, al-Fawakih al-Dawani (2:307)]

This indicates that there is leeway on this issue particularly as it relates to obliging people – especially lay people – in repeating their prayers behind individuals who may be following valid positions from other schools of thought.

The Principle of Repeating Prayers With Disliked Actions

As mentioned earlier, the principle that it is necessary to repeat a prayer with a disliked action applies to actions that are prohibitively disliked, not slightly disliked. However, what is often neglected in this discussion is that there are differences on this principle and what it entails even within the Hanafi school.

When it comes to a prayer performed with a prohibitively disliked action, the opinions we can find in the Hanafi school are:

(i) it is necessary to repeat with

some saying it is necessary within the time of the prayer,

some saying it is necessary within the time of the prayer and also after it exits, and

some saying it is necessary within the time of the prayer and recommended after it exits.

(ii) It is only recommended to repeat such a prayer.

(iii) It is recommended to repeat the prayer if a disliked action occurred in a select integral of the prayer and necessary if it occurs in every integral.

Of these three opinions, all have basis in the school and were held/chosen by leading jurists.The opinion that it is necessary (i) may be the strongest of these opinions as argued by Ibn Abidin and others. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (1:486); Shaykhizada, Majma al-Anhur (1:390)]

With this said, the application of this opinion i.e. repetition is necessary, is not always clear in the Hanafi school. This would likely require an independent research paper to detail but, for example, prayer in congregation is considered necessary yet the statements of certain jurists suggest that it is not necessary to repeat a prayer that is performed individually. Similar is the case with reciting surahs in the Qur’an out of order, which is necessary but requires no prostration of forgetfulness. On the other hand, certain jurists said that if one prays with clothing that has animate figures, he or she should repeat his prayer.

Consequently, according to some scholars, these rulings may demonstrate different understandings of the principle “any prayer with a prohibitively disliked action requires repetition.” The disliked action here may be in reference to:

(a) one connected to actions that are part of the the essence of prayer or its integrals (praying in congregation or with a short beard are not),
(b) one generally connected to the prayer whether from its essence/integrals or not.

Each of these is indicated by the jurists in their application of the principle in question. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (1:307)]

Considerations of Context & Conclusion

The preceding paragraphs demonstrate two things. Firstly, the actions mentioned in the question as requiring repetition of the prayer do not require it as they are not prohibitively disliked. This is especially the case for prayers behind an Imam who is bare-headed or wearing a short-sleeved shirt, since their rulings are fairly clear in the Hanafi school.

Secondly, even if we assume that these acts are prohibitively disliked, an argument that could be reasonably made about an individual without a fistful beard, there is significant difference on the principle itself and the types of acts it applies to. According to at least two of the three opinions mentioned (ii, iii), repetition of such a prayer would not be necessary, while even according to some versions of opinion (i), repetition would not be necessary if the prohibitively disliked action related to other than the essence/integrals of the prayer itself. The beard, head cover, and short-sleeved shirt are all elements external to the actual prayer.

Perhaps most importantly, the question that should be asked is whether the laity should be given the opinion expressed in the question, and the most appropriate answer in my view seems to be no. The reasons for this are many and include:

(a) The diversity of our communities where an Imam may be following a school or a valid opinion different to that of his followers. Indeed, leading scholars, such as those of Dar al-Ulum, Karachi, have given verdicts (fatawa) stating that even when it relates to the validity/invalidity of a prayer, what counts is the opinion of the Imam’s school, not the follower, which a fortiori applies to aspects of dislikedness too.

(b) Individuals do not choose the Imams of their mosques and such an opinion has the adverse effect of dissuading them from praying in congregation. The laity should be encouraged to be part of their mosque and to pray with their fellow Muslims.

(c) Many people from among the laity are already struggling with their religion, such as praying in congregation to begin with, making up missed prayers, praying their sunan, and so forth, and this unnecessarily adds to their burden in a manner causing difficulty (haraj).

(d) Such opinions have been noted to cause divisiveness in the community due to their misapplication.

Given these considerations, among many others, and the fact that the principle itself is differed upon from a number of perspectives, the laity should not be given the opinion that such prayers be repeated.

If a particular individual out of his own caution and desire does decide to repeat such prayers, he or she may do so. Here, caution and wisdom must be exercised by such an individual so as not to become a cause of division in the community, nor someone who begins to harbor ill opinions of others who may not share his or her view on certain matters.

Indeed, the common practice of labeling people, especially Imams, as “evil-doers” (fussaq) for following valid opinions other than one’s own, such as on the beard, is unacceptable and stems from ignorance of traditional attitudes towards differences of opinion. Rather, we recognize the diversity of our tradition and community, as well as the needs/struggles of people around us in order to advise them in a manner that allows for their spiritual growth as individuals and members of a single ummah.

(Note: This answer provides a brief summary of the views on repeating prayers with disliked actions. It does not aim to be completely comprehensive in detailing the views and reasoning of classical jurists relating to this principle, which requires engaging with texts of legal theory, and suffices with an exposition minimally required to answer the question at hand.)

And Allah alone knows best,

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Are There Valid Reasons for Missing the Congregational Prayer in the Mosque? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

My brother is of the understanding that every prayer must be prayed at the masjid. Therefore, under every circumstances, he tries to attend even if it means he inconveniences others.

Under what circumstances is it permissible for him to pray at home?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Is Performing Prayers in the Masjid Obligatory?

Performing prayers in congregation, and at the masjid, are both highly recommended acts. 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].

The issue of whether or not males must perform obligatory prayers in the masjid is one of legal disagreement. It is a valid legal opinion that doing so is obligatory, as is commonly held in the Hanbali school.

In the Shafi’i school, this is not the case; while doing so is a highly rewarded action and failing to do so is disliked, prayers performed at home or alone remain valid.

The lone exception is the Jumu’ah prayer performed on Friday; its performance in congregation is unanimously considered obligatory for resident men.

Reasons for Missing Congregational Prayer

Whether or not one holds that praying in congregation in the masjid is obligatory, classical works of law detail mitigating circumstances for missing congregational prayers in the masjid.

Many of the reasons are related to the difficulty in reaching the masjid, such as an illness or difficult weather conditions; assisting others, such as taking care of or spending time with an ill person or someone on their deathbed; not being in a condition that prevents one from concentrating, such as needing to use the washroom; or not causing harm to congregants, such as attending in a state that is offensive to others.
In these and other related cases mentioned in works of law, it would not be disliked to miss a congregational prayer, and would not be sinful in cases in which attendance is obligatory.

Assessing one’s own Circumstances

A person would have to assess their own circumstances to ascertain whether their situation is similar enough to these to warrant leaving off congregational prayers.

It is worth noting that reasons generally given for missing congregational prayers, other than chronic illness, are not envisioned as being long term reasons, as this would lead to a large portion of the population leaving off congregational prayers for extended periods of time, which was not the intent of the concessions.

Source: al-Hawashi al-Madaniyyah

Shuaib Ally