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Friday Prayer with Less than 40 People

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

  The Muslim community in the area where I am living has just recently started praying the Friday congregational prayer.  They are using temporary accommodation for the Friday congregational prayer.  This accommodation is not available for the five daily prayers.  It is also very unlikely due to the small amount of Muslims present in this area that the five daily prayers could be established at present.  As such, establishing a Friday congregational prayer is seen as a precursor to establishing the five daily communal prayers.

The Muslims in this area have approached an organization which may assist them financially in renting a house for this purpose (Friday and daily prayer).  However, the community needs to be gathering for Friday prayer to be eligible.  In the view of this organization the Friday prayer should be the first prayer established.

However, under the present circumstances the Friday prayer is invalid according to the Shafi mathab due to the fact that the number of Muslims attending the prayer are less than 40.

The remaining five conditions for the validity of the Friday congregational prayer according to the Shafi mathab seem to be fulfilled.  There is no other valid Friday prayer within a distance that would make it obligatory for the Muslims in this area to attend. To date the Muslims have been praying Friday congregational prayer and then immediately afterwards praying Zhur.

Is there another opinion within the madhab permitting the number to be less than 40?  What do you advise the Muslims in this small community do in this situation detailing the correct conduct of both the person leading such a Friday prayer and that of a follower of the person leading?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate  

The Position of the Shafi‘i School  

This issue has been dealt with a number of Shafi‘i texts.  In Fathu’l-Mu‘in, Shaykh Zayn al-Din al-Mallibari (Allah have mercy on him) writes:  

“al-Bulqini was asked about those who live in a village (qaryah) with less than 40 people: should they pray the Zuhr prayer or the Friday prayer?  He replied: “According to the school of al-Shafi‘i, they should pray the Zuhr prayer.  A group of scholars have, however, permitted then to pray the Friday prayer and this is a strong position.  If they follow (taqleed) this position, they can perform the Friday prayer.  It would be praiseworthy (hasan) if they are precautious and pray the Zuhr prayer after performing the Friday prayer.”” (I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.58,59) 

In other words, according to the Shafi‘i school, it is not obligatory on the people of the village to pray the Friday prayer and they must pray the Zuhr prayer instead.  The best course to follow in such a case, however, would be to follow the Hanafi school, which holds that the Friday prayer can be validly performed with 4 people (the imam plus 3 followers) (al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab, 1.111), and to then follow this by praying the Zuhr prayer according to the Shafi‘i school after the Friday prayer.  By doing this, one would have performed the Friday prayer validly according to an acceptable Sunni position, and also fulfilled the requirements of one’s own school.  This is what I would advise you to do.  

Note that if one validly performed the Friday prayer according to the Hanafi school, it is not strictly necessary to pray the Zuhr prayer, since it is permissible to follow any one of the 4 Sunni schools.  

Alternative Positions within the Shafi‘i School 

There are, however, other positions within the Shafi‘i school.  Imam al-Shafi‘i’s old (qadim) position corresponded to the position of the Hanafis mention above, and many major Shafi‘is preferred this position over the position of the school, among them Imam al-Suyuti (Allah be pleased with all of them).

Not every position within the school is strong enough to be followed.  I scoured several books of the madh-hab to try and determine whether this position was indeed strong enough to be followed, but found that the later scholars had contradictory views on the matter.  Some of them said that one should follow the Hanafis on the matter, and others said that it would be permissible to follow the alternative Shafi‘i position (Bughyat al-Mustarshidin, Fath al-‘Allam, Ta’liqat ‘ala I‘anati’l-Talibin, Tarsheeh al-Mustafidin).  To find out whether it is really permissible to follow the alternative Shafi‘i position, one would have to raise this Questionto a living mufti, such as Habib Zain (Allah preserve him) or one of the muftis in Tarim (Allah preserve them all).  If anyone is able to do so, they would have performed a great service.  

And Allah knows best.  



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