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Imam`s Rank in Congregational Prayer

We offer most prayers in the Musala (place of prayer) of the company where we work. However, there is always disagreement about who should lead the prayer; knowing that most of those who step forward to this task lack the virtues of an Imam, such as being the best versed in the recitation of the Book of Allah and having most knowledge of the Sunnah ….etcetera. In fact, only two of us enjoy those virtues, but they refuse to lead the prayer since, from their viewpoint, this task involves a great deal of responsibility before Allah. What is the solution for this problem? And, is it a hard to be an Imam and will one be held accountable for it before Allah?

Answer:
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

An Imam leads people to Allah in one of the greatest rituals of Islam; namely prayer. In terms of status, he occupies a high rank in our religion, which was first undertaken by our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), then those who came after him. In order for the Imams to deliver their great mission successfully, the Prophet has invoked Allah to guide them. Narrated Abu Hurayrah: "The imam is responsible and the mu'adhdhin is trusted, O Allah, guide the imams and forgive the mu'adhdhins."{Related by Abu Dawoud}. His saying "The imam is responsible" includes many meanings, which were agreed upon by the people of knowledge in the books on congregational prayer.

We encourage whoever has the required virtues to be an Imam to step forward and have trust in Allah for He, alone, knows the sincerity of their intentions and their loyalty to him, and so He will bless them with all that is good in this life and the next. Ibn 'Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: "There shall be upon dunes of musk- I think he said: On the Day of Judgment- a slave who fulfills Allah's right and the right of his patron (master), a man who leads a people (in prayer) and they are pleased with him. And a man who calls for the five prayers during every day and night."{Related by Tirmithi}.

We advise every Muslim to master the recitation of the Book of Allah, adhere to its teachings, and understand the religion in order for knowledge, goodness, piety, and righteousness to spread all over the lands and mosques of Muslim countries.

Having what it takes to be an Imam, but refraining from this collective obligation is far more dangerous than undertaking this sacred task while not having the required conditions. Every man whose prayer is valid-he masters reciting Al-Fatehah and Tashahoud-is qualified to be an Imam. It was related in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim that some companions-at the age of seven- used to lead their people in prayer. In such situations, abstaining from this task out of prudence is, actually, misplaced prudence, because the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Keep asking Allah for help and never refrain from it."{Related by Muslim}. And Allah knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.