Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
It is my understanding that qunut at fajr is a highly emphasized sunnah in our school, the nonperformance of which calls for a forgetfulness prostration, whether done intentionally or unintentionally. In addition, it seems that Reliance states that one should perform a forgetfulness prostration in a group prayer when the imam does something that calls for one but doesn’t perform it himself. If this is the case, should a Shafi’i follower perform a forgetfulness prostration when his Shafi’i imam omits the qunut, but doesn’t perform the extra prostration himself? Does it make a difference in this regard, if the follower has made qunut without the imam, as there seems to be ample time to do so without legally “lagging behind”, according to the guidelines mentioned in Reliance? (Our Shafi’i imam omits it, without prostrating, claiming that he doesn’t want to confuse the Hanafis in the group. In addition, he claims that he makes a short qunut quietly to himself so that others can’t hear, but his brief standing after the second ruku is no longer that his standing after the first ruku, and, since no one else can tell that he may be doing this, it doesn’t give the follower a chance to make qunut also) What if the imam is not Shafi’i… Should the prostration be performed by the follower then, as the prayer may be optimal in the imam’s school?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
wa ‘alaykum as salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
If the Imam omits the fajr qunut, then it is sunna for the follower to perform the forgetfulness prostration after the Imam says salams, regardless of whether the Imam is Shafi’i or Hanafi and regardless of whether the follower himself performed the qunut to himself or not. Note, however, that the forgetfulness prostration is not obligatory, so if one chooses to omit it–out of fear of causing an uproar in the mosque, for example–one’s prayer remains valid.
If the Imam says he recites the fajr qunut softly to himself, then one should believe him and not perform the forgetfulness prostration. Performing the forgetfulness prostration when it is not called for will invalidate one’s prayer. The minimal qunut can be performed in a matter of a few seconds, as explained in a previous post (see: The Fajr Qunut), so it is not far-fetched that your Imam does, in fact, recite the qunut. Note also that if the follower does not recite the qunut, but the Imam does, then the follower is not permitted to make the forgetfulness prostration: one does not perform the forgetfulness prostration for one’s own mistakes when praying behind the Imam.
And Allah knows best.