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Congregational Prayer

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

  Questions regarding congregational prayer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

This is a response to the long Question included below. This Question can be reduced to three smaller Questions:

Q1. I realize that I’ve forgetfully risen to pray an extra rak’ah (e.g. a fifth rak’ah in zuhr or a fourth rak’ah in maghrib). What do I do?

You must immediately return to the final sitting and complete the prayer from where you left off. To not do this immediately will invalidate your prayer.

This falls under the rubric of one of the invalidators of the prayer mentioned in the Shafi’i books as: “The performance of one or more surplus action integrals on purpose and with certainty.” (Fath al-‘Allam, 2.366)

The qualification “on purpose” implies that to stand up for an extra rak’ah forgetfully would not invalidate the prayer but as soon as one remembers, to continue to perform the extra rak’ah would invalidate the prayer.

Q2. The imam that I am following rises to pray an extra rak’ah (e.g. a fifth rak’ah in zuhr or a fourth rak’ah in maghrib) and I am aware that he has made a mistake. Do I follow the imam or not?

You may not follow the imam and must remain seated. After that, you have one of two choices:

(a) You may assume that the imam has forgotten and wait for him to return to the sitting position and then complete the prayer with him.

(b) You may intend to leave the congregation [mufaraqah] and complete your prayer on your own. This is superior to the first alternative, (a). (In the Shafi’i school one may intend to cease following the imam at any point in one’s prayer and validly complete it on one’s own, although this would nullify the reward of the congregation).

To rise up and follow the imam would invalidate your prayer.

(Bushra al-Karim)

Q3. I am the imam and forgetfully rise to pray an extra rak’ah. Those following me say “subhanallah” to remind me that I have made a mistake. What do I do?

If you realize that you have made a mistake and you are, in fact, praying an extra rak’ah, then you must sit down immediately. Otherwise, your prayer will be invalidated. All details given in response to Q1 above apply here.

If, however, you are not convinced by what the followers are telling you (meaning either that (a) you are convinced that you are not praying an extra rak’ah or that (b) you doubt whether or not the rak’ah you are praying is extra), then if those who disagree with you number 4 or more, you must follow them regardless. To not follow them would invalidate your prayer.

Otherwise, if you are not convinced and they number less than four, you must remain standing and ignore them. To follow them would invalidate your prayer.

(Fath al-‘Allam)

And Allah knows best.

Hamza Karamali.

PS: I’ve answered the Question below in the light of what’s explained above.

>>I have two Questions regarding congregational prayer based upon a recent occurrence. 1) If the imam inadvertently adds an extra rakah to the prayer, and someone joins the prayer in the middle, does he consider this extra rakah as a part of his prayer upon which he should add when the imam completes his prayer? For example, if I were to join a congregation in the third rakah of Maghrib, and the imam were to pray a fourth rakah and then make sajdah as-sahw (and I were certain he prayed a fourth rakah), would I make up one rakah (since I made two rakat while following the imam) or two rakat (since only one of the rakatayn was actually required for the imam to make)?

If you were certain he prayed an extra rak’ah, you must not follow him when he rises to pray the extra rak’ah. Instead, you should either remain seated and wait for him to sit back down or intend to stop following him and complete your prayer on your own. If you did follow him, you would have to repeat your

2) If the imam realizes he has started an extra rakah, at what point should he no longer sit down. In other words, if the imam were to stand for a fourth rakah for Maghrib, and then realized this either on his own or from a prompt by one of the followers (saying “subhanallah”), should he sit back down? Under what conditions should he do so (i.e. if he has not yet started reciting al-Fatihah, if he has not reached a certain place within the surah, etc.)?<<

The imam must sit down the moment he realizes his mistake. If he does not do this immediately, his prayer is invalidated.

>>My thinking behind this Questionis that the imam obviously cannot sit back down for the first tashahhud if he inadvertently stands up for the third rakah without performing it (since he would be leaving a fard to return to a sunnah, as described in “Reliance of the Traveller”), but what is the ruling here, where he would be leaving something that by itself is fard but is not fard in his prayer (since it is extra), to return to a fard (the final tashahhud)? Would he base his decision of whether or not to perform sajdah as-sahw on the same conditions as for the former situation (i.e. if he were more than half-way standing he would perform it and if less so before sitting back down he would not)? Or is the ruling different for this case?<<

By standing up for an extra rak’ah, he is not engaged in something fard; rather, he is engaged in something forbidden that invalidates the prayer if done on purpose.

If he stands back up completely, he definitely performs the forgetfulness prostration. I couldn’t find an explicit text stating the exact point at which the forgetfulness prostration becomes due – whether it’s at the halfway point between standing and sitting or something else. Note, however, that the forgetfulness prostration is a sunna and not performing it would not affect the validity of the prayer.

This answer was indexed from Qibla.com, which used to have a repository of Islamic Q&A answered by various scholars. The website is no longer in existence. It has now been transformed into a learning portal with paid Islamic course offering under the brand of Kiflayn.