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Obligation to offer the Prayer in Congregation
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Posted on: Monday, September 19, 2011 - Hits: 3555

Why does Javed Ahmad Ghāmidī in his book Mīzān apply the divine law related to the Messengers to the congregational prayers? He seems to hold that the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) directing the believers to compulsorily attend the prayers in congregation pertains to his time only and it is no more applicable afterwards? I mean what is the intrinsic evidence within the narratives which points to the fact that the law should be applied?

In order to understand this issue, we need to consider the fact that narratives in this regard are of two types. Both are authentic yet apparently contradicting.
The first type of narratives gives the message that praying in the mosque is an obligation that must be fulfilled at all costs and there can be no reason for a person who hears the adhān to not come to the mosque. For example:
A blind person once asked relief from the Prophet (sws) in coming to the mosque, he was at first given the permission; and then the Prophet (sws) asked him: “Do you hear the voice of the adhān?” When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (sws) said that he would then have to come to the mosque.1
The Prophet (sws) warned people: “I would like to burn the houses of those who do not come for the prayer, and would like to have them thrown over these people.”2
It is narrated by Ibn Mas’ūd (rta) that even the sick in those times would come to the congregational prayer by limping on the shoulders of two people.3
The second category of narratives give the message that praying in the mosque is highly rewarding though it is not an obligation. Some of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) in this regard are the following:
The congregational prayer is twenty seven times more rewarding than the individual prayer.4
If people knew how highly rewarding reaching the mosque at the time of the adhān is and standing in the first row is, and if for this they had to cast lots, they would have done this. And if they knew the reward of outdoing others for the zuhr prayer, they would have done so. And if they knew the reward for the fajr and ‘ishā prayer they would have reached the mosque even if they had to drag themselves for this.5
A person who prayed the ‘ishā prayer in congregation is like a person who stood for worship till midnight and a person who prayed the fajr prayer in congregation is like a person who spent the whole night standing in worship.6
Both these types of narratives, of course, oppose one another and cannot be true at the same time unless there is some other explanation to them.
A deliberation on the Qur’an shows that in the times of the Prophet (sws), there had come a time after the truth had been conclusively communicated to his addressees when true believers were separated and isolated from the Hypocrites and Disbelievers so that the final judgement of God could be pronounced on the latter two denominations. The first category of narratives seems to be an application of this directive of God: coming to the mosque was a barometer in determining who was a true believer and who was not. Hence this was regarded as compulsory. However, after the departure of the Prophet (sws), this was of course no longer required since the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers had reached its culmination.
In other words, what can be said is that while the first category of narratives relates to the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers, the second category gives a general picture.
Needless to say that all narratives must be related to their basis in the Qur’ān and Sunnah or in the norms of sense and reason for narratives cannot give an independent directive of religion. They must be related to their basis in the original sources.

1. Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 623, (no. 1486).
2. Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 106, (no. 644); Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 263, (no. 1481).
3. Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 264, (no. 1488).
4. Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 106, (no. 645); Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 262, (no. 1477).
5. Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 107, (nos. 653, 654); Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 185, (no. 981).
6. Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 264, (no. 1491).


Dr Shehzad Saleem

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