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)]
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.