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The congregational prayer

congregational_prayerThe virtues of the congregational prayer:
Performing the (obligatory) prayers in congregation is mandatory and required of every believing adult male who has no excuse for not doing so. Many authentic narrations highlight the superiority and excellence of praying in congregation. Among these narrations are:

The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi was sallam, said: “Prayer in congregation is superior to a prayer performed individually by twenty-seven degrees.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

The Prophet  also said: “The prayer of a man in congregation is twenty-five times more superior (in reward) to his prayer in his house or market – and this is because he performs ablution and perfects it and goes to the mosque with the sole purpose of performing the prayer. He does not take a step without being raised a degree and having one of his sins erased. When he prays, as long as he does not lose his ablution, the angels keep on praying [for him] ‘O Allaah, bless him. O Allaah, have mercy upon him.’ And he is considered in prayer as long as he is waiting for the prayer.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

Abandoning the congregational prayer:

To know the status of praying with the congregation and how serious a matter it is to abandon it, the Prophet  hardly exempted anyone from it. Abu Hurayrah  reported that a blind man said to the Prophet : “O Messenger of Allaah, I have no guide to lead me to the mosque (to attend the congregational prayer).” He asked the Prophet  for permission to pray in his house and the Prophet  permitted him. Then, when he turned to go, the Prophet  called him and said: ‘Do you hear the call to prayer?’ The blind man said ‘yes.’ The Prophet  then said: “Then respond to it [by coming to the mosque]!” [Muslim]

Moreover, the Prophet  severly warned against abandoning it. Abu Hurayrah  also reported that the Prophet  said: “By Him in whose hand is my soul! I have considered ordering a fire to be kindled and then ask someone to lead the people in prayer. And then go to the men [who did not attend the prayer] and burn their houses over them.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

This was clearly understood by the Companions  and their words reflected it. ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood  said: “If anyone would like to meet Allaah tomorrow as a Muslim, he should persevere in observing these five prayers (in congregation) whenever the call for them is made, for Allaah has chosen for your Prophet  the way of right guidance. And the [five prayers in congregation] are part of this right guidance. If you were to pray them in your houses, as the one who stays behind in his house, you would be leaving a ‘Sunnah’ of your Prophet . If you leave the ‘Sunnah’ of your Prophet  you would go astray. Verily, I have seen a time when no one abandoned them [the congregational prayers] except for the hypocrites who were well known for their hypocrisy. A man would be brought, supported by two people [due to his weakness or illness] until he was placed in a row (in the congregation).” [Muslim]

The Prophet  stressed on the importance of praying in a congregation under all circumstances. In one narration, he  said: “If there are three men in a village or desert and prayer is not established among them, then the devil takes mastery over them. So be with the congregation since the wolf devours the remote (stray) sheep.” [Abu Daawood]

What is considered a congregation?

The least number required for the congregational prayer is two: the Imaam (leader) and another one with him. The more the people, the more rewarding is the prayer by Allaah. The Prophet  said: “A man’s prayer with another man is worth more than his prayer individually, and his prayer with two men is worth more than his prayer with only one man. The more there are, the more rewarding by Allaah.” [Ahmad and Abu Daawood]

The Prayer is better to be performed in the mosque. The farther mosque is better than the near. Concerning this, the Prophet  said: “The people attaining the most reward are those who have farthest to walk.” [Muslim, Ahmad and Abu Daawood]

Who should be the Imaam:

The congregational prayer is led by an Imaam. The Imaam should be male, just, and well aware of Islamic jurisprudence. The Imaam stands in front by himself while the followers stand behind him in straight lines, all facing the Qiblah (the direction of Ka’bah). The most worthy of leading people in prayer is the one who is the best in memorizing and reciting the Quran. If they are equal, then the one who has the deepest knowledge of Sunnah. If they still are equal in the knowledge of Sunnah, then the oldest of the group. The Messenger of Allaah  said: “The most versed in recitation of the Book of Allaah leads the people in the prayer. If they are equal, then the one most aware of the Sunnah. If they all are equal, the one who emigrated earlier. If they all are equal, then the oldest of them.” [Muslim]

Women attending the congregational prayer:

Concerning women, it is better and more rewarding for them to pray in their houses than to attend the congregational prayers. However, they may attend the congregational prayer in the mosque provided it will be secure from any temptation by their attendance. Also, they should avoid wearing or using any attractive or tempting adornment or perfume, and refrain from intermingling with men, as the Prophet  said: “Do not prevent the female slaves of Allaah (i.e. women) from the mosques of Allaah. They should go without wearing perfume. If one wears perfume, it is not lawful for her to attend the prayer in congregation in the mosque.” [Ahmad and Abu Daawood]

Women leading the congregational prayer:

It is forbidden for a woman to lead a man in prayer. If a woman leads a man in prayer, his prayer is void and he has to make it up. This is a matter which is agreed upon among the jurists as we have clarified in the following fatwa 89729.