Answered by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
I observed at our local Masjid that people come after the first few rows (Saffs) are already filled for Jumu’ah and just take place in front of the first row, in other words in line with where the Imam prays. Most people who do it, have entered from the side-door which is close to the first few rows, but there’s enough space at the back of the Masjid. And even if the ground floor is filled, there’s space down-stairs. So, I have a few questions regarding this scenario:
1) Is their Salah valid? If yes, then with any dislike (karahat)?
2) Do they get the reward of offering Prayer in the first row?
3) Is it not abusive of those behind them, who come much earlier?
4) If it is a wrong practise, then how can they be stopped wisely?
There are many virtues with regards to praying salah in the first saff. Saaiduna Ubay bin Ka’ab narrates that one-day, after completing the Fajr jamaat, the Prophet of Allah turned and faced the congregation directly. He then asked: “Is so and so present? Is so and so present?” mentioning the names of three people who had not come for Fajr salah that morning. He then remarked: “The most difficult salah on the hypocrites is Fajr and Isha Salaah, and if they knew the rewards in these two prayers, they would (certainly) attend, even if they had to crawl. And know that your salah with one person is better than your salah individually; and your salah with two people is better than your salah with one person. And the bigger the jamaat, the more beloved is such a salah unto Allah. And take note that the first saff is like the saff of the angels. If you (really) understood its virtue, you would race towards the first saff. Indeed, the virtue of salah in congregation over a man’s individual salah is 24 or 25 times greater.”
The second thing, which I would like to mention, is what constitutes the first saff. The jurists have written that the saff behind the Imam where the Muazzin (person calling the Azan) calls the iqamat from (generally it tends to be the first saff behind the Imam) constitutes to be the first saff. Similarly, if due to lack of space some people stand on either side of the Imam that will then be considered to be the first saff. (Raddul Muhtar p.311 v.2)
From the aforementioned discussion the answers to your questions are as follows:
If there is space at the back of the masjid to perform salah the it will be Maruh Tahrimi for them to form a saff on either side of the Imam. (Aapke Masaail p.317 v.2)
If there was no space for them at the back and formed a saff on either side of the Imam they will get the reward of the first saff.
If there was no space in the masjid it will not be considered unlawful for them to form a saff on either side of the Imam due to necessity.
They should be encouraged to come early for the Jummah salah. The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has said: “On the day of Jummah, the angels stand at the entrance of that Masjid in which Jummah salah is to be offered. They write down the name of the person who enters the Masjid first, and thereafter the name of the person who follows, and they continue doing this. The person who entered first will receive the reward of sacrificing a camel in the path of Allah; the one who followed him will get the reward of sacrificing a cow,
thereafter a chicken, thereafter the reward of giving an egg as charity in the path of Allah. Once the khutbah commences, the angels close the register and begin listening to the khutbah. “ (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham