Who Has the Most Right to Lead Congregational Ritual Prayers?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt


Who is the best person to lead prayers? Is it permissible to offer prayers behind someone who does not have a beard?


Jazāk Allāh Khayr/ Thank you for your question.

According to Islamic jurisprudence, the following are the most entitled to lead the congregational prayer, in order of sequence:

  1. The owner of the home (if ṣalāh is being performed at home)

  2. The appointed imām

  3. The most knowledgeable (in fiqh matters)

  4. The one with the best recitation (articulation with application of tajwīd rules)

  5. The one who is most god-fearing

  6. The one who is eldest

  7. The one with the best character

  8. The one with the best appearance (in apparent nobility)

  9. The one with the purest linage

  10. The one with the best voice

  11. The one with the cleanest clothes

  12. If they are equal, then they are to draw lots or take the majority decision by the congregation

(See: Nūr al Iḍāh, I’elā Al Sunan, Al Talkhīs Al Habīr, Ṭabrānī, Musnad Aḥmad, Majm’a Al Zawāid, Musnad Imām Al Shāfi’ī)

In response to the second part of your question, kindly note that ṣalāh is valid if one is in congregation, praying behind a Muslim man who may not have a beard.

Having a beard is not amongst the mandatory conditions for leading ṣalāh.

The following are the minimum requirements for the Imāmah of a man leading a mixed congregational prayer for the prayer to be valid (apart from the regular conditions of ṣalāh such as purity, ablution, appropriate clothing, qiblah etc):

  1. Al Islam – To be a Muslim.

  2. Al Bulūgh – To be mature (puberty)

  3. Al Aql – To be sane

  4. Al Dhukūrah – To be male (for leading a mixed gender congregation)

  5. Al Qirā‘ah – To be able to recite the Noble Qur’ān by memory in Arabic

  6. Al Salāmah Min Al A’adhār – To be free from ailments (such as nose bleed etc)

(See: Nūr Al Īdāḥ)

Abū Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports, the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) said,

“Perform ṣalāh behind the imām, whether he is pious or disobedient”. (Abū Dawūd, Ṭaḥāwī, Dār Quṭnī)

And Allāh Knows Best

This answer was collected from It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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