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Offering the Sunnahs for the Fajr prayer after the iqamah has been called

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I know that the Sunnah prayers before Fajr are emphatic Sunnahs that I should always perform. However, sometimes I am late and the mu`adhin is already calling the iqāmah before I have started to offer them. Can I offer them quickly and then join the congregation?

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Abū Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If the second call to prayer is made, then there is no prayer except the prescribed prayer.” [Sahīh Muslim]

The hadīth indicates a prohibition against engaging in voluntary prayer after the second call to prayer (the iqāmah) has commenced. The indication is general, regardless of whether the voluntary prayer in question is the Sunnah prayer for Fajr or some other prayer.

Actually, the Prophet (peace be upon him) rebuked someone who offered those two units of prayer after the second call for the Fajr prayer had been made. `Abd Allah b. Mālik b. Buhaynah relates the following:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a man who was praying after the second call for the Morning Prayer had been given. He said to him something that we could not make out. When we had finished our prayers, we converged on him and asked: “What did Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) say to you?”

He told us: “He said to me: ‘It is feared that one of you might pray the Morning Prayer as four units’.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim]

Ahmad b. Hanbal was asked about a man who enters the mosque while the imam is praying the Morning Prayer, what he should do if he has not already offered two units of prayer? Ahmad said: “He should join the prayer, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘If the second call to prayer is made, then there is no prayer except the prescribed prayer’.”

Many scholars have discussed the wisdom behind this ruling. Al-Nawawī writes: “The wisdom behind it is so that the person will be free to perform the obligatory prayer from its inception, commencing it right after the imam does. Taking care to perform the obligatory prayer in the most complete manner takes precedence over engaging in voluntary prayers.”

Al-Qādī `Iyād says: “There is another aspect to its wisdom, which is the prohibition of acting differently than the imām.”

And Allah knows best.

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