قال الله تعالى : وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ 43 البقرة
“And perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, and Irka’ (i.e. bow down or submit yourselves with obedience to Allah) along with Ar-Raki’un.”[ Al-Baqarah 43]
سَمِعْتُ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ يَقُولُ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- أَنَّهُ قَالَ : إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِهِ فَإِذَا كَبَّرَ فَكَبِّرُوا وَإِذَا رَكَعَ فَارْكَعُوا وَإِذَا قَالَ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ. فَقُولُوا اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّنَا لَكَ الْحَمْدُ. وَإِذَا صَلَّى قَائِمًا فَصَلُّوا قِيَامًا وَإِذَا صَلَّى قَاعِدًا فَصَلُّوا قُعُودًا أَجْمَعُونَ
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying: The Imam is appointed to be followed. So recite takbir when he recites it, and bow down when he bows down and when he utters:” Allah listens to him who praises Him,” say” O Allah, our Lord, for Thee be the praise.” And when he prays, standing, you should pray standing. And when he prays sitting, all of you should pray sitting.( Al-Bukhari 722, Muslim 414)
Details about this subject
These are a few fundamental principles for safeguarding the prayer in the approved manner according the people of the Sunnah past and present.
- Allah (تعالى) said: And performAs-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, and Irka’ (i.e. bow down or submit yourselves with obedience to Allah) along with Ar-Raki’un. Ibn Attiya Al-Andalus said: This verse means pray correctly regularly with its conditions. Some scholars say the words; “bow down with those who bow” refer to the condition for the prayer, while others said it’s mentioned because Bani Israel’s prayers didn’t have bowing. Also the words “along with “ are an encouragement to pray in the masjid with the congregations. [ Tafsir ibn Attiyah]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Imam Ash-Shafa’I said: ” This pertains to the outward actions of the prayer, so for that reason it’s permissible to do an obligatory prayer behind someone offering a sunnah prayer and vice versa. It’s allowed to pray Thur behind a Muslim praying Asr.” [Explanation of Sahih Muslim by An-NawawiExplanation of Sahih Muslim by An-Nawawi]
- ““ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Imam Al-Albani said: The Imam that leads the Muslims in their prayer in the Masjid , in the Musala, in the house , and any other place must be followed ;as long as the people praying behind him are sure that he is a Muslim, and then their prayer is correct. Regardless, if this imam has bad character or errors in Aqeedah, that don’t took take him out of the fold of Islam, then their prayer behind him is acceptable. This is based on the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Your leaders will lead you in Salat (prayer). If they conduct it properly, you and they will be rewarded; but if they make mistakes you will earn the reward and they will be held responsible (for the mistakes) [Al-Bukhari 1838].” [Al-Huda wa Nur 442/42:37]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Some people stay away from masjids where Imams fall short in acting by the Sunnah. The people in those Masajid for example don’t join their rows correctly, say Ameen aloud , or read the Quran in unison. Imam Al-Albani said:” To refrain from praying in the masjids where the Imam or the people don’t follow the Sunnah is a BID’AH. It’s not permissible to for the zealous brothers of the Sunnah to refrain from going to the Masjid ,except if there is a masjid where the previous innovations mentioned are not practiced… Maintaining the five daily prayers in the Masjid with the congregation is an obligation on the Muslim males. [Al-Huda wa Nur 574/00:00-7:38]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Praying behind an innovator or in” Non-Salafi Masjid” [The term salafi Masjid is titled given to some Masajid as means of honoring the Masjid, the imam and the people who pray there. Until now I haven’t seen any legitimate conditions that dictate a masjid to be called a salafi masjid.Ironically history books havent mentioned the three holiest masajid in the world as Salafi masjids, i.e Mecca, The Prophet’s Masjid, and Masjid Al-Aqsa. The question is still on the table, ” What are the conditions for a masjid to be called a salafi masjid and who from the Salaf called a masjid a Salafi masjid?” –FOOD for THOUGHT!]
Imam Al-Albani said: The belief system of Ahlus Sunnah is it’s sunnah to pray behind every pious and sinful leader, however the Shia don’t think so thus they will only pray behind a Shia. The prayer behind an innovator is acceptable as long as his bid’ah isn’t disbelief . [Al-Huda wa Nur 190/ 01:01:45]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Reading Al-Fatihah behind the Imam is an issue that scholars differ over and if the Imam’s recitation suffices for those praying behind. In a nutshell there are evidences for both sides with a middle position which I choose to follow ,and that is in the audible prayers when the imam’s recital is done, we remain silent and in the other prayers we should read Al-Fatihah. i.e Thur, and Asr and the last Rak’ah of Maghrib and Isha.
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” In Ramadhan there is no harm following the Imam during the Tarawih prayer with a Mushaf in your hand as long as it doesn’t distract you too much and if the Imam makes a lot of errors then it’s a good thing,so that you can correct him. Refer to Fatawa number 2214/ Nur Ala Darb by Imam Al-Uthaymeen.
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” no one should be criticized for raising his hands or not in his prayer; and this doesn’t invalidate the prayer according to the four schools of Jurisprudence- Hanafi, Malikee, Shafa’I and Hanabala. So if the imam raised his hands and the followers didn’t or vice versa then the prayer of the imam or his followers mustn’t be criticized, even if they raised their hands now and again. No one has the right to take a legal opinion of a scholar and make it a characteristic to be followed and judge others as being blameworthy when what they are doing is found in the Sunnah. [Majmou Al-Fatawa 22/253]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed…” Shaykul Islam Ibn Tayimiyyah said “ It’s not condition to pray behind someone to know his belief or test him in affairs of Aqeedah and Mihaj ,saying, “ What’s your position or belief ?” In fact you can pray behind a person whose condition is unknown.” [Ibid 23/351]
- “ The Imam is appointed to be followed. So recite takbir when he recites it, and bow down when he bows down and when he utters:” Allah listens to him who praises Him,” say” O Allah, our Lord, for Thee be the praise.”Imam Ibn Al-Attar (724H) said : There are some important issues taken from this hadith; It’s a must to follow the Imam and prohibited to do the opposite of what he does, if a person says Takbir Al-Ihram before the Imam then his prayer isn’t valid, bowing and prostrating are done after the Imam does his, and the saying” O Allah, our Lord, for Thee be the praise.” Is only said by the Imam. This is the view of Imam Ahmed and Malik as well. [Al-Uddah fi Sharhil Umdah, vol 1/424 by Ali ibn Ibrahim ibn Dawud ibn Al-Attar Ash-Shafa’I(654-724H) he was among the closest students to Imam An-Nawawi,so much so he’s sometimes referred to as An-Nawawi Jr. His teachers apart from Imam An-Nawawi was ibn Daqiq Al-Eid.He authored over a dozen of books and among the most titles are; explanation for 40 hadtih of An-Nawawi, Fatawa of Imam An-Nawawi and Usul Ahlus Sunnah fil It-tiqad. Ath-Thahabbi said: Ibn Al-Attar was a scholar, a grandmaster of hadith, a Mufti and Salafi.]
- The Imam is appointed to be followed. So recite takbir when he recites it, and bow down when he bows down…There are 2 key issues about following the Imam when he leaves the obligatory acts of the prayer. Shaykh Sa’d Ash-Shitri said:” If the Imam doesn’t do a pillar then those behind don’t follow in him in that action. Now if the Imam doesn’t do an obligatory action of the prayer, then the correct position is the followers behind him leave the action as well, so long as it’s not obligatory for the imam to redo. [Sharul Umdatul Ahkam]
- “and when he utters:” Allah listens to him who praises Him,” say” O Allah, our Lord, for Thee be the praise.” There are 4 ways say the praises of Allah in this:
1-اللهم ربنا و لك الحمد
2-اللهم ربنا لك الحمد
3-ربناو لك الحمد
4- ربنا لك الحمد
- “And when he prays sitting, all of you should pray sitting.” This hadith shows that it’s allowed to pray sitting behind an imam who begins his prayer while sitting, and if he starts off standing then sits later on towards the end of the prayer ,then scholars say that those behind him should continue their prayer standing. [Refer to Kashfu Liltham, by Imam Muhammad ibn Ahmed As-Saafareeni (1188H)]
All in all this hadith covers some essential standards for the Muslim to live by with his prayer. This hadith explains the position of the Imam and his followers. It explains those people behind an imam are to follow and not precede him, and avoid doing anything different . Establishing the prayer in congregation based on the guidelines mentioned in this hadith and the explanations of the scholars gives the nation a balance and cultivation that rears them to follow their leaders in issues of knowledge and actions.
Allah has warned about differing with the imam. He said: and let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment, beware, lest some Fitnah befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them. Likewise the Messenger(ﷺ) warned from disagreeing with the Imam. He (ﷺ) said: ‘Does the one who raises his head before the Imam not fear that Allah may turn his head into the head of a donkey?”‘ A scholar of hadith mentioned that he went to Damascus to hear and study hadith from a legendary scholar there. After reaching Damascus he went to the shaykh and listened to him narrate hadith from behind a curtain. This scholar wasn’t able to see his teacher’s face, but when the shaykh saw that this student was there to stay for a while and learn he lifted the curtains. He noticed the shaykh’s face was like a donkey, and the shaykh advised him not to go before the Imam [Imam Mulla Ali Qari, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Al-Mubarkpuri,As-Suyuti and others have narrated this story and hold it to be true.]
Ibn Taymiyyah said: There is a consensus that preceding the imam is not permissible and the majority of scholars are together that if a person does it then his prayer is still valid and Allah knows best.