All praise to Allah the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings of Allah upon His noble Messenger.
Salat (prayer) is of the most important of the pillars of the deen (religion) and establishing salat like Allah ta’aala and thus His Messenger SAW (peace be upon him) want us to is the best way to get close to the Lord of the Heavens and Earth. This includes establishing salat in jama’ah (congregation).
The jama’ah prayer has great rewards and benefits; however, it is a true pity that these benefits have been missed by slacking off in its performance. The majority of those that pray have also lost the etiquettes of salat al-jama’ah and the proper quest for it, and have thus forbidden themselves great benefit and good.
The factor that has aided in the desertion of the mosques – even though the situation has now changed, and the youth are heading to the mosques – I say that what has aided in the desertion of the mosques is that which is frequently boasted by ad vising brothers saying that salat al-jama’ah is a sunnah mu’akkadah (confirmed regular practice of the Prophet SAW, yet the term is used here to imply that it is optional.) This has led to the negligence of prayer in congregation.
Since the evidence that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory is so strong and clear I felt that I should point this matter out to my praying brothers as an advice, and in anticipation of the reward. I do not intend to discuss the ahaadeeth (plural for hadeeth) which explain the benefits of salat al-jama’ah, nor those that explain the proper way of performing it for other writers have addressed these.
Finally I ask Allah to make us all successful in reaching that which He loves, and pleased Him. He is the One that is capable of that. I ask Him that He saves the reward for the Day of greatest presentation.
Kuwait, Rabeeb Awwal 1401 H.
Please send your corrections to the following address:
The Daar of Islamic Heritage Inc. P.O. Box 831415 Mlaml, FL 33283
Jazakumu Allahu Kheira
The salat has a great status in Islam and it has been warned against neglecting its performance. It also has a great trace or mark in the islah (correction, purification, and causing to become one that means well) of the Muslim and in increasing his faith, and for this reason many ibadat (acts of worship) have accompanied it like wudu and walking to the mosque.
I will present the texts that are related to salat al jama’ah. After tracing through the evidence and that which they prove, it has become apparent to me that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory upon each and every Muslim that is capable.
In order to make the matter easier for the reader to follow I have arranged this research study by first displaying the evidence that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory. Followed by the evidence of those that claim salat al-jama’ah to be only a voluntary sunnah as well as a discussion of that evidence.
I have paid special attention to stay away from the statements of men which are without evidence. The reason for this is that in matters of dispute statements of one person or another which are not substantiated with proof are of equal weight. It is only with evidence that we can select one person’s opinion over the others.
Evidence Of Those Saying It Is Obligatory
A- Evidence From The Qur’an
Our Lord tabaraka wa ta’aala said in S4 V102 what may be translated as “When you are with them, and stand to lead them in salat, Let one party of them stand up (in salaf) with you. Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them take their position in the rear, and let the other party come up which has not yet established salat- and let them establish salat with you.”
In the verse is an order to establish salat, and the order was repeated once more, “and let the other party …”
There is evidence here that jama’ah meaning congregational prayer is obligatory on all because the obligation did not fall from being upon the second party simply by the congregation of the first party.
Allah has commanded a congregational prayer while they are in a state of war and fear, and if it were only a sunnah then it would have been better to abandon the congregational prayer; however, since Allah has ordered it, and obligations like following the Imam are allowed to be violated in order for the second party to pray behind the Imam. This proves clearly that the congregational prayer is obligatory.
This is a clear proof, and there is none amongst Muslims (scholars) that denies the salat of fear ordered in this verse.
Our Lord the Exalted has said in S68 V42-43 what may be translated as “The day that a Shin shall be laid bare, and they shall be summoned to prostrate, but they shall not be able to. Their eyes will be cast down, ignominy will cover them, seeing that they had been summoned aforetime to bow in adoration while they were whole, and had refused.)”
The evidence here is from several facets amongst them:
Allah SWT punished them because they did not answer the call to prostrate.
The one that is calling to salat is the one calling Athan. As has been explained by the hadeeth of Ibn Abi Maktoom: the Prophet SAW told him “do you hear Hayya Alassalat, Hayya Alalfalah (parts of the call to prayer)”? He said yes, then the prophet SAW said “fahayhala” which means something like “then go answer the call.” This hadeeth is sahih (which means sound, and authentic) and is narrated by Abu Dawood and Ahmad.
So he learned that the one who does not answer the call, has not answered.
Allah ta’aala said in S2 V43 what might be translated as “Establish salat and pay your zakat and bow with those that are bowing”.
The proof therein is:
That He SWT ordered us to bow, and meaning salat because it is a pillar of the salat.
His statement which was translated as “with those that are bowing” is an order to bow with those that are bowing, and that is not accomplished except through congregation. So this is evidence that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory because the meaning of the verse is not accomplished except through congregation.
Evidence From The Sunnah
Abu Huraira R.A.A. narrated that the Messenger of Allah SAW said “The heaviest salat for the hypocrite is that of Isha’a and Fajr and if they knew what was in them they would have attended them even if it meant crawling, and I have a strong desire to order the salat to be established, then order a man to lead the people in salat then I would go with some men carrying bundles of wood to a people not attending the salat and burn their houses on them.” Agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim, and this was Muslim’s version.
This hadeeth proves that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory because one’s house would not be burned for leaving a sunnah.
Those of the opinion that salat al-jama’ah is not obligatory find refuge in a few excuses with regards to this hadeeth which follow:
They said this punishment is in reference to those that do not attend the Jum’ah (Friday) prayer, and their evidence in this regard is the hadeeth of Abdullah Bin Mas’ood narrated by Muslim that the Prophet SAW said to a people that miss the Friday prayer “I have a strong desire to order a person to lead the salat and I would burn the homes of those that have missed the Friday prayer.” This is not in contradiction to the hadeeth of Abu Huraira because Ibn Mas’ood is stating that the burning is for those that miss the Friday prayer, and Abu Huraira is stating that the burning is for those that miss salat al-jama’ah and there is no contradiction between the two because the hadeeth of Abu Huraira clearly states the Isha’a and Fajr and it is likely that what is meant is to show that both cases are worthy of the burning.
They say: This has been abrogated! My reply is: Where is the proof that this has been abrogated, and who has narrated it? However, to simply claim abrogation without evidence is a forgery upon Allah which is not backed by any knowledge.
They say: Ths prophet SAW wanted to burn their houses because they were hypocrites, not because they did not attend the prayer in congregation. The best rebuttal of this statement was given by Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him in his statement,
…as for your claim that he wanted to punish them because of their hypocrisy, and not for missing the congregation this implies two errors:
The first: cancelling what the Messenger SAW confirmed and related to missing the congregation.
The second: Confirming what the Messenger SAW cancelled. For he never punished the hypocrites for their hypocrisy; to the contrary, he used to accept from them what they announced, and left what they concealed between them and Allah.
As such the hadeeth of Abu Huraira remains a strong argument for the obligation of salat al jama’ah.
What Muslim narrated in his Sahih that a blind man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, I do not have someone to guide me to the Mosque,” and thus asked the Messenger SAW to grant him special permission not to attend congregational prayers. As he was leaving, the Messenger called him and said “Do you hear the call? “, he said “yes”. He SAW said, “Then answer.” Authentic versions narrated by Ahmed and others came as: narrated by Ibn Maktoom that he said: “Oh Messenger of Allah, I am blind, live far away, and have a guide that does not suit me, so can’t you give me consent to pray at home?” He said “Do you hear the call?” Ibn Maktoom replied “Yes”. The Prophet SAW then said “I cannot find an excuse for you.”
If the blind man has no excuse not to pray in congregation, how can there be an excuse for the one that can see?
Those that conclude salat al-jama’ah to be sunnah say, “This is an order to pray in congregation that implies the preference not the obligation of salat al-jama’ah”.
The response to this is that since the order here was unrestricted one needs supportive evidence to conclude that it was only meant to show preference. Now how about supportive evidence confirming salat al-jama’ah to be obligatory.
If supportive evidence were not necessary to conclude that an order was stated to imply preference then each and every order could be understood to have been implying preference, and nothing would remain obligatory.
Narrated by Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them (him, and his father), that the Prophet SAW said, “Whosover hears the call to salat, and does not respond, then there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse.” This is a sound, and authentic hadeeth.
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote in his Risalat Assalat “… and mind you this chain (referring to chain of narration of the above hadeeth) is authentic.” This hadeeth has been narrated by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Daar qutni, Al-Hakim, Al-Baghawi, Bayhaqi, and has also been traced and judged authentic by the following scholars: Al-Thahabi, Al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyah, and Al-Albani. Some have spoken about this hadeeth, claiming that its chain is stopped (literal translation for the Arabic word mawqoof; however, the authentic chains of narrations which have been traced to the Prophet SAW contradict their claim.
That hadeeth states that whoever does not answer the call, there is no salat for him, and this judgment would not be passed to someone who is simply going against an order which implies preference, and not obligation.
Abdullah Bin Mas’ood said: who ever would be pleased to meet Allah as a Muslim, then let him take care of those salat which are called to because they are of the ways of huda (guidance), and Allah has given to your Prophet the ways of huda. And if you were to establish salat in your homes, like that person staying behind in his home, you would be abandoning the sunnah of your Prophet, and if you were to abandon the sunnah of your prophet you would surely go astray. And there is not a man amongst you that purifies himself (yatatahhar), and does so properly, then directs himself to one of these mosques except that Allah will write for him with each step he takes a hasanah (merit), and raises him a grade, and drops from him a sayyi’ah (demerit). And I have seen us, where not one of us would stay behind from prayer in congregation except for a hypocrite whose hypocrisy is known. And one that could not come on his own would be carried between two men until he is stood in the row.
In another narration he said, “the Messenger of Allah taught us the ways of huda, and amongst the ways of huda is salat in the Mosque in which Athan is called”. Narrated by Muslim.
The evidence in this hadeeth is that not praying in congregation is considered a sign of confirmed hypocrisy.
It is known that the signs of hypocrisy are those of abandoning something which is obligatory, or doing something which is haram (unlawful.) And there is not a Muslim in whose heart iman (faith) has established itself, that would want to be like the hypocrites in their attributes.
Ibn Sa’eed Al-Khudry said that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “If there are three let one of them be their Imam, and the one with the strongest right to be Imam is the one that is the best reciter of the Quran (both in terms of the amount memorized, and ability to recite it properly).”
Abi Ad-Darda’a said that the Messenger of Allah SAW said “There are not three in a town where no Athan is called, and congregational prayers are not established amongst them except that the Sheitan will overcome them, so you must stick to jama’ah because the wolf gets the stray one.” Authentic hadeeth narrated by Abu Dawood and Ahmed.
Abi Asha’a’thaa’a Al-Muharibi said: We were sitting in the masjid (mosque) then the Mu’athin (the one that makes the call to prayer) made the call to prayer. Then a man got up from the masjid walking. Abu Huraira followed him with his sight until he left the Masjid. Then Abu Huraira said “as for this person he has disobeyed Abal Qasim (the Messenger) SAW”. Narrated by Muslim.
Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, judged this man as having disobeyed Abal Qasim SAW, and Abu Huraira would not have passed this verdict without knowledge of the sunnah of Abal Qasim SAW. And whosoever is considered among the disobedient then he has left something which is obligatory.
These, my Muslim brothers are some of the pieces of evidence that oblige the Muslim servant to pray in congregation, and whoever ponders in the Quran and Sunnah will find more and more. Each piece of the preceding evidence is enough in itself to be proof that salat al-jama’ah is obligatory. We also remind our brothers that the Muslim servant is not allowed to reject anything from Allah or his Messenger just because a certain scholar ruled differently. Evidence is an argument against all people. Imam’s that have concluded differently are expected to have a valid excuse because even they cannot contradict clear evidence from Quran and Sunnah. Their teachings that people must follow Quran and Sunnah are well known, and they, may Allah have mercy upon them, did not become Imam’s except by strong adherence to Quran and Sunnah. Know this because it is beneficial to you…
Of Allah’s bounty upon us with regards to this issue is that the best of people, the companions of the Messenger SAW, have had Ijma’a (consensus) in it. There are no narrations passed down from any one of them giving leave not to pray in congregation. And following is what has been confirmed by them:
Ibn Mas’ood said, “and I have seen us, where not one of us would stay behind except for a hypocrite whose hypocrisy was known.” (5th evidence)
Ibn Mas’ood, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ary, Ali, Abu Huraira, Ayesha, and Ibn Abbas have stated, “Whoever hears the call to salat and does not answer, there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse.” (3rd evidence)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said after he presented the statements of the companions: “These are statements of the companions as you find them, authentic and well known, and there is not one known statement from any of the companions which contradicts this. Each of these pieces of evidence is enough all by itself, so how about when they all enforce one another. Verily in Allah is our success.”
These are the statements of the people of knowledge:
Al-Baghawi wrote in Sharh Assunnah (3/349), “More than one of the companions were of the opinion that whoever hears the call and does not answer, then there is no salat for him.”
Ata’a bin Rabah said, “There is no excuse for anyone created by Allah in a city or country side not to attend if he hears the call to prayer.”
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “If his mother forbids him from praying Isha’a in congregation, out of pity, he should not obey her.
Al-Awza’i said: “There is no obedience to the father in leaving the Friday prayer, or the daily congregational prayers, regardless of whether one heard the call to prayer or not.”1
Amongst those that have said that it is obligatory as well are Ibn Khuzaima, Al-Shafi’i, Al-Bukhari, Ibn Hibban, Dawood, Ahl Al-Dhahir, Hanabila, Ishaaq, and most of Ahl Al-Hadeeth, and some of the companions of Al-Shafi’i.
You now know, may Allah have mercy upon you, the preceding evidence concerning the obligatory status of salat al-jama’ah,and the statements of those that conclude it as such from amongst the pious predecessors of our Ummah (nation.)
Now what remains for you to know is that whoever prays alone, then his prayer is correct; however, he has the ithm (sin) of leaving the jama’ah (congregation). As for the acceptance, or rejection, this is up to The Creator, and no one can say that the prayer of Zaid2 is accepted while the prayer of Obaid is not.
Let us now turn to show some of the evidence of those that claim it is sunnah and not fardh (obligatory).
Evidence Of Those Saying It Is Sunnah And A Discussion Of That Evidence
Ibn Omar said that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Prayer in congregation is 27 grades in excess of one’s prayer alone.”
Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet SAW said, “A man’s prayer in congregation surpasses his prayer at home or in his business by 27 grades.”
“If you (speaking to two) have prayed during your journey and reached a Mosque congregation then pray with them, it will be a nafila (over the obligatory voluntary prayer) for you.” Ahmed and Tirmithi.
Abi Musa said that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “The one with the greatest reward in the salat is the one who has to walk the furthest to reach it, then the next turthest, and the one that waits for the prayer with the Imam reaps greater reward than one that prays it and then sleeps.” Bukhari and Muslim.
They said these are all ahaadeeth (plural for hadeeth) that prove that the one that prays alone does get his prayer counted. Therefore these ahadeeth cause all the other ahadeeth to carry an implication of a preferred rather than an obligatory nature.
In addition to the above they apologized for not accepting the previous evidence as evidence with excuses which we have already mentioned after each piece of evidence.
Your answer to that is that that which they have said is not something we disagree about because we also acknowledge that a person can pray alone without a congregation because although the congregation is obligatory it is not a condition for the prayer as we have already explained. So the man has the reward for salat as well as the sin for leaving the congregation. In this there is no contradiction because the man receives ithm for leaving one obligation, and gets reward for doing another.
From this it becomes apparent to us that there is no contradiction being pointed out amongst the ahaadeeth because the most that these ahaadeeth imply is that one may pray alone; however, they do not give a person leave from praying in congregation. It is also well known that leaving an obligatory part of a deed does not make it invalid so long as it is not a condition for that deed.
These ahadeeth respond to those that say that prayer in the Mosque is a condition, and prayer of a person alone is not valid. As for those that say it is obligatory to pray in congregation these ahaadeeth are not to be considered a response to them, Try to understand this because it can be beneficial to you. I ask Allah success for myself and for you.
Know my praying brother, may Allah make you aware of the truth, that Sheitan has many ways to keep you from praying, and supplicating to your Lord. The beginning of the path is to neglect prayer in congregation, then to neglect tasbeeh (saying Subhannallah, Al-Hamdulillah, and Allahu-Akbar each 33 times after each prayer along with other supplications), finally neglecting prayer all together as we have seen.
So how can you allow yourself to lose the reward of 27 grades, and sufficing with one grade only. Have you reached a state that you have no need for hasanat (merits) from Allah? There will be a great market for hasanat tomorrow (implies in the future) with the Lord of the Worlds.
So reflect upon this, and think about it, and do not allow the many that Sheitan has overcome to a point that they do not get up to salat except lethargically, do not let them sway you. Beware of letting the Sheitan pull you to his row.
Also know that sakina (inner peace and tranquility) is not observed at home, and verily the ones that populate the Mosques of Allah are those that have faith in Allah, and the Final Day (meaning of a verse from the Quran.) Are you not one of them? Know also that in a Bukhari hadeeth it is stated that each time one goes to the Mosque or re turns from the Mosque Allah prepares something special for him in Jennah (paradise). So are you without need for this?
In this there is clarification for he who has been caused to be successful in his search for good, and has been guided to it. The last of our supplications is all praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds.
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sabt in Kuwait,
18th of Sh’aban, 1397 H.
2nd August of 1977 G.
Translated by the Daar of Islamic Heritage
12th of Ramadan1413 H.
5th of March, 1993 G.
1 What appears most correct to me is that if his inability to hear the call is due to the distance of the Mosque then he is not obliged to attend.
2 Zeid and Obeid are arbitrary names used here with the meaning of “one person, but not the other.”