Is Congregational Prayer obligatory?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Shafiifiqh.com

 

Question:

As Salaamu Alaykum,

Is it wajib (obligatory) for a man to pray in congregation at the mosque or at home? If he doesn’t pray in congregation will he get a sin?

Answer:

 

Wa’alaykum Salam Wa Rahmatullah

The relied upon view of the madhhab of Imam Ash-Shafi’i is that congregational prayer is Fard Kifayah (communally obligatory), however, there is a weaker view that it is personally obligatory (fard ‘ayn) and also Sunnah Mu’akkadah (an established, repeated sunnah). It is better to be prayed within a masjid.

Imām An-Nawawi states in his Minhāj,

“I say [regarding the ruling on congregational prayer]: What is more correct due to the textual evidence [al-manṣūṣ] is that it is farḍ Kifāyah (communally obligatory), and it is said [qīl] it is farḍ ‘ayn (personal obligation). And Allah Knows Best!”

 He later states, “And in the Masjid it is better to perform the congregation, except for women.” The same is given by Ibn Naqīb in ‘Umdat As-Sālik too. The reason for attendance in the masjid is that it makes the group prayer evident amongst the people; it is a place of more honor, purity, and believers! [Mughni pg 396]

The final ruling of Imam An-Nawawi, as he states in his most authoritative work At-Taḥqīq is, “[Congregational prayer] is communally obligatory [Farḍ Kifāyah], and there is a naṣṣ for it! And in the weaker view/qīl it is stated that the ruling is Sunnah Mu’akkadah, and that it is hated (makrūh) to leave it. And it is also said that it is Fard ‘Ayn (personally obligatory), and if we say that it is fard kifāyah they are to be fought [if it is left]…” (page 257, Dār Al-Jīl)

Of benefit: Imam An-Nawawi states that it is only recommended for travellers, not obligatory. However Khaṭīb states that Taqiyud-Dīn As-Subkī stated, as well as others, that the obligation falls upon them too as they quote a naṣṣ from Al-Umm of Imam Ash-Shafi’i. [Mughni Al-Muhtāj 396, Dār Iḥyā Turāth] Also see Umdat as-Salik f12 in the English translation for further detail.

 

The proofs that it is Farḍ Kifāyah (communally obligatory):

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And when you are among them and lead them in prayer, let a group of them stand [in prayer] with you and let them carry their arms…” [4:102]

Khatib Ash-Shirbini argues that if the obligation in this verse still stands in the difficulty of war, what then of the ruling outside of war in a state of peace! Obviously the command would still stand. [Mughni Al-Muhtaj pgs 394-395]

Rasulullah (ṣallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “If there are three men in a village or in the desert among whom congregational prayer is not performed (Jama’ah), Shayton has got mastery over them. So observe congregational prayer [Jama’ah], for the wolf eats only the straggling animal!”

[Reported by Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, and declared Sahih by Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim. Quoted too by Khatib Ash-Shirbini – Mughni Al-Muhtaj]

Also the hadith of Rasulullah (‘alayhis salam) reported from Abū Hurayrah (radiya Allahu ‘anhu):

“No Salah is more difficult for the hypocrites than the fajr and ‘Ishā’ prayers, and if they knew the reward for these prayers at their respective times, they would certainly present themselves [in the mosques] even if they had to crawl.” The Prophet added, “Certainly, I considered (هم) to order the Mu’adhdhin to pronounce Iqamah and order a man to lead the Salāh, then take a torch of flame to burn down the houses of those who do not come to Salah!”

In another hadith is the addition, “By the One whose Hand is my soul! If anyone of them had known that he would get a bone covered with good meat or two small pieces of meat present between two ribs, he would have turned up for ‘Isha prayer [in congregation]!” [Bukhari 644 reported differently by Muslim, See Lu’lu Al-Marjān hadith 383]

Some may say that this hadith would render the verdict personally obligatory (fard ‘ayn), however, the Prophet Muhammad (‘alayhis salam) was saying this specifically about the hypocrites (munāfiqūn) who abandoned the congregation and did not pray at all. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad did not burn down their houses, but rather stated that he only considered it (هم). [Response given by Khatib Ash-Shirbini in his Mughni Al-Muhtaj page 396]

Also the hadith in Sahīh Al-Bukhārī,

“Oh people! Pray in your homes! For verily the most virtuous prayer of an individual is in their home except the establish prayers [i.e. 5 obligatory, maktūbāt].”

For women it is recommended to pray in their homes or to join a “congregation of women” to pray with (see Mughni Al-Muhtāj 396).

The upshot is that congregational prayer Salatal-Jama’ah is Fard Kifāyah in a community – usually established in the masjid, certainly better to be established therein. Note that Jumu’ah prayer is fard ‘ayn and those who do not attend without a legal excuse will be in sin [from amongst the men]. It is necessary for the community of Muslims to uphold this symbol of Islam especially in the west where Muslims are few. So to the question as to whether or not you will receive sin if you do not attend, the questioner – and every Muslim, especially in the west – must determine if the obligation is truly being fulfilled within their community. Whatever the case may be, one should go the masjid so as to protect their soul from the possibility of it being impermissible to miss the congregational prayer – as the other view is Fard ‘Ayn (personal obligation) and it is more precautious to apply this rule to one’s self so as to be safe.

 

Allah Knows Best

Shafi’i Institute Fatwa Dept.

 

See also: Is it obligatory to go to the masjid if you live 10 minutes away?

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