Answered by Muftī Khālid Saifullāh Al Raḥmānī
Translated by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt
I have a question regarding tarawīḥ prayers. I am linked with the Islamic Foundation of Toronto’s live broadcast and I was wondering if we (family of three) can offer the tarawīḥ from our home, following the live broadcast from IFT? Please let me know.
In general can we follow the congregational ṣalāh (prayer) that is being relayed live on a TV screen or computer monitor? Would the prayer be considered valid?
Ṣalāh (prayer) Requires Spiritual and Physical Presence
Ṣalāh (prayer) is not a mechanical practice; rather it is an act of worship where the servant intimately converses with his Lord. The servant gains pleasure of his physical presence with his body parts, limbs, movements, motions and pauses. This also includes his internal state of presence with the heart and soul, awe, humbleness, submission and concentration. It is as if the Imam (leading the congregation) acts as a representative on behalf of the followers through his words and recitation, while being in a state of exceptional awe, hope, reverence, and respect.
The genuineness and reality of the ṣalāh (prayer) does not remain intact when following the prayer on a live TV or internet broadcast. In such a situation the prayer is reduced to only a few motorised motions. It is void of awe, hope, humbleness, devotion, submission, reverence and true respect in a physical sense with the imam and congregation. And this practice is also in opposition to the true spirit of worship and the genuine state of servitude. It also goes against the specifications of Islamic jurisprudence, in the sense that people will begin to follow devices, tools and manufactured apparatus, in prayer and acts of worship.
Acceptable Distance from the Imam and Congregation
Another point of concern is that for the validity of a worshiper to follow an imam leading ṣalāh /prayer, there should not be a large distance or remoteness between the imam and followers, such as a public street, a river and or a bridge. (see Fatāwā Al Hindiyyah)
The above is as per the school of Ḥanafī fiqh.
In the Shāf’īe school, it is stated that if there is a worshiper following the imam leading ṣalāh from outside the masjid, there should not be a gap of more than three hundred dhirā’a (arms length distance), nor a closed door between them.
In the Ḥanbalī school, the condition for the validity of such a prayer, is that it must be possible for the worshiper to see the imam or at least see the worshipers standing right behind the imam.
The Māliki school’s verdict is that if at such a distance one is able to grasp the movements and actions of the imam, the prayer would be valid. (see Al Fiqh ‘Alā Madhāhib Al Arba’ah)
It is obvious that the denotation of the Islamic jurists regarding “seeing” and “being able to grasp the movements” of the imam, is that which is direct in presence, not through a medium of a television, screen etc.
Thus, according to all mainstream schools of jurisprudence derived from the Qur’ān and Sunnah, it would be incorrect to follow in prayer through the television broadcast etc. when there is a significant distance and remoteness.
Yes, if the gathering or congregation is large, in continuous adjacent rows, positioned one after the other, then it would be correct to employ the use of the screen broadcast to ease the fulfilment of the prayer integrals and to see the motions of the imam. However, it would certainly be considered makrūh (disliked). This is because, the screens will result in images being in front of the worshipers, it may also affect the devotion in the prayer and also that there are numerous objectionable matters associated with the television.
As an alternative to such large congregations, it is also possible to bring in to use, the audio microphone to make worshipers aware of the imam’s motions and movements from one posture to another.
And Allāh Knows Best