Importance and Virtues of Jama’at

SALAAT WITH JAMA’AT (CONGREGATION)

(From Beheshti Zewar)

1. Offering salaat with jama’at is wajib according to some ulama, and sunnat-e-mu’akkadah according to others. This will be discussed in more detail, Insha Allah.

2. To offer salaat with jama’at means that at least two people must get together and offer their salaat in such a way that one person leads the salaat and the other person follows him. The person who leads the salaat is called the imam, and the person who follows him is called the muqtadi.

3. If even one person joins the imam, jama’at becomes valid. This is irrespective of whether the person is a man, woman, slave, free person, mature person or a child who has reached the age of understanding. However, for the jumu’ah and eid salaats, there has to be at least three persons apart from the imam.

4. In order for the jama’at to be valid, it is not necessary for the salaat to be a fard salaat. Even if it is a nafl salaat and two people get together and offer it with jama’at, it will be valid. This is irrespective of whether both the imam and the muqtadi are offering nafl salaat, or only the muqtadi is offering nafl salaat and the imam is offering fard salaat. However, it is makruh to make a habit of offering nafl salaat with jama’at or for more than three people to offer nafl salaat with jama’at.

 

The Virtues and Importance of Jama’at

So many Sahih Ahadith have been narrated with regards to the virtues and importance of jama’at that if all of them had to be collected at one place, a large voluminous book would get filled. After examining all these Ahadith, one aspect is very apparent, i.e. jama’at is a very important prerequisite for the perfection of salaat. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam never ever discarded jama’at. So much so that when he fell ill and did not have the strength to walk on his own, he came to the musjid with the assistance of two people and offered his salaat with jama’at. He used to become extremely angry on the person who did not offer his salaat with jama’at and desired to mete out severe punishment on the abandoning of jama’at. Without doubt, very great importance has been attached to offering salaat with jama’at in the Shariah of Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. And it ought to have been like this. The high status of salaat demanded that whatever was going to complement it should also be given full importance.

We will now quote a verse which some commentators and jurists have used as a proof on the establishment of jama’at. Thereafter, we shall quote a few Ahadith. The verse reads as follows:

Translation: “And bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.” (i.e. with jama’at).

There is an explicit order to offer salaat with jama’at in this verse. But because a few commentators have taken “bow down” (ruku) to mean “humility” (khudu), therefore the fardiyyat (compulsion) of salaat with jama‘at cannot be established (from this verse).

 

Ahadith on the Virtues and Importance of Jama’at

1. Ibn Umar radiallahu anhu narrates from Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam on the virtue of offering salaat with jama’at as being 27 times more rewarding than offering it alone.

2. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “It is better to offer salaat with another person than to offer it alone. And it is even better to offer it with two people. And the bigger the jama’at, the more beloved it is in the sight of Allah.”

3. Anas bin Maalik radiallahu anhu narrates that the Banu Salimah who used to live quite far from the Musjid un-Nabawi decided to shift from their original place and come and settle down somewhere near Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. On hearing about this, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam asked them saying: “What! Don’t you regard your footsteps which touch the ground as being worthy of reward?” From this we can deduce that the further one lives from the musjid, and still comes walking to it, the more reward he will receive.

4. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Whatever time that is spent waiting for salaat will be regarded as though the person was actually in salaat.”

5. One night Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam addressed those companions of his who were present for the esha jama’at saying: “People are offering their salaat and going away to sleep, while whatever time you are spending in waiting for salaat is being calculated as if you are already in salaat.”

6. Buraydah Aslami radiallahu anhu narrates that once Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Glad tidings to those who go to the musjids in the dark of the night in order to attend the jama’at, that they will be bestowed with full light on the day of resurrection.”

7. Uthmaan radiallahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “The person who offers esha salaat with jama’at will get the reward of spending half the night in ibaadah. And the one who offers the esha and fajr salaats with jama’at will get the reward of spending the whole night in ibaadah.”

8. Abu Hurayrah radiallahu anhu reports that once Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “It crossed my mind that I order someone to gather some firewood, thereafter the adhaan be called out and I order someone to perform the salaat while I go to the houses of those people who do not attend the jama’at and I set fire to their houses.”

9. Another narration reads as follows: “Were it not for the little children and women, I would have occupied myself with the esha salaat and ordered the servants to go to the houses and set them alight together with them and their possessions.” (Muslim)

The wisdom behind mentioning esha salaat is that it is the time for sleeping and generally most of the people are at home at that time. After quoting this Hadith, Imam Tirmidhi rahmatullahi alayh says that a similar Hadith has been narrated by Ibn Mas’ud, Abu Darda, Ibn Abbas, and Jaabir radiallahu anhum. All these people were among the respected companions of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

10. Abu Darda radiallahu anhu reports that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Even if there are only three persons in a particular locality or jungle and they do not offer salaat with jama’at, then shaytaan will most certainly overpower them. O Abu Darda! Regard jama’at as being incumbent upon you. Remember, the wolves attack that sheep which has strayed away from the main flock.”

11. Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “The person who hears the adhaan and still does not attend the jama’at without any valid excuse, then the salaat which he offers alone is not accepted.” The Sahabah asked as to what that excuse was, upon which Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam replied that it was fear or sickness. In this Hadith fear and sickness have not been explained. In other Ahadith some explanation of fear and sickness has been given.

12. Mihjan radiallahu anhu narrates: “Once I was with Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam when we heard the adhaan. Rasulullah sallallhu alayhi wa sallam commenced with his salaat while I went and sat down in my place. After completing his salaat, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam asked me: “O Mihjan! Why didn’t you offer your salaat with jama’at? Are you not a Muslim?” I replied saying: “O Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam! I am indeed a Muslim, but I had already offered my salaat at home.” Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “When you come to the musjid and see that the jama’at has commenced, join the people and offer your salaat even if you have already offered your salaat.”

Ponder over this Hadith and see how Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam reprimanded his selected companion, Mihjan radiallahu anhu, and asked him: “Are you not a Muslim?”

 

Sayings of the Sahabah on the Virtues and Importance of Jama’at

A few Ahadith have been mentioned to serve as an example. We will now mention the sayings of the companions of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam in order to illustrate the importance they attached to the offering of salaat with jama’at, and how they regarded the abandoning of jama’at. Why should they not regard it like this? Who can be more cautious in obeying and seeking the pleasure of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam than them?

1. Aswad says that once he was in the company of Hadrat A’ishah radiallahu anha when the discussion turned towards the virtues and importance of salaat. In order to substantiate what she was saying, she quoted an incident from the marad ul-maut (the last sickness before death) of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. One day, the time of salaat entered and the adhaan was called out. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said that Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu should be told to perform the salaat. I said to him that Abu Bakr is a very soft-hearted person. When he stands to perform the salaat in your place, he will become incapable and will not be able to perform the salaat. However, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam repeated the same command, so I gave him the same reply. Upon this, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “You are saying the same things which the women of Egypt used to say to Hadrat Yusuf alayhis salaam. Tell Abu Bakr that he should perform the salaat.” Anyway, Abu Bakr went out to perform the salaat. In the meantime, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam felt some relief from his sickness, so he went towards the musjid with the assistance of two people. I can still picture the scene when Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam was going with his feet dragging on the floor. That is, he did not even have the strength to lift his feet. Abu Bakr had already commenced performing the salaat and wanted to move back. But Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam stopped him and made him perform the salaat.

2. Once Hadrat Umar radiallahu anhu noticed that Sulayman bin Abi Haythama was not present for the fajr salaat. So he went to his house and asked his mother as to why he did not see Sulayman for fajr today. She replied that he had been offering salaat throughout the night and fell asleep at the time of fajr. Upon hearing this, Hadrat Umar radiallahu anhu replied: “I prefer offering fajr salaat with jama’at than spending the entire night in ibaadah. (Muwatta Imam Malik) Shaikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddith Dehlawi rahmatullahi alayhi has written that it is clear from this Hadith that there is more reward in offering fajr salaat with jama’at thantahajjud salaat. It is for this reason that the ulama have written that if spending the night in ibaadah will cause some harm or shortcoming in the fajr salaat, it will be preferable to leave out spending the night inibaadah. (Ash’atul Lama’aat)

3. Hadrat Ibn Mas’ud radiallahu anhu says: “We witnessed ourselves – the Sahabah – that none would leave out offering salaat with jama’at except an open hypocrite or that person who is sick. But even the sick used to come for jama’at with the assistance of two people. Without doubt, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam showed us the different paths of guidance. And among them is the offering of salaat in those musjids where the adhaan is called out, i.e. where salaat is offered with jama’at. Another advice that he gave us is that whoever wishes to meet Allah Ta’ala on the day of resurrection as a Muslim should make a duty of offering his five times salaat regularly in those places where adhaan is called out, i.e. in those places where salaat is offered with jama’at. Without doubt, Allah Ta’ala has shown the different paths of guidance to your prophet. And this salaat is also among these paths. If you offer your salaat in your homes, as is the habit of the hypocrites, you will most certainly be missing out on the Sunnah of your prophet. And if you leave out the Sunnah of your prophet, you will most certainly be led astray. When a person makes a complete wudu and leaves his home for the musjid, then for every step that he takes he gets one reward, his rank is elevated, and one sin is forgiven. We have noticed that no one except the hypocrite stays away from the jama’at. Our state was such that when we used to fall ill, we used to be taken to attend the jama’at with the assistance of two people and made to stand in the saff” (line in which every one stands to offer salaat).

4. Once a person walked out of the musjid without offering his salaat after the adhaan had been called out. Upon this, Hadrat Abu Hurayrah radiallahu anhu said: “This person has disobeyed Abul Qaasim (Muhammad) sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and disregarded his noble order.” (Sahih Muslim) Just ponder over what Hadrat Abu Hurayrah radiallahu anhu said in regard to the person who abandoned the jama’at. After hearing this, can any Muslim still have the audacity of leaving the jama’at without any valid excuse? Can any believing person bear disobeying Hadrat Abul Qasim (Muhammad) sallallahu alayhi wa sallam?

5. Hadrat Umme Darda radiallahu anha says: “Once Hadrat Abu Darda radiallahu anhu came to me in an extremely angry state. So I asked him: ‘Why are you so angry today?’ He replied: “I swear by Allah that I do not see anything wrong in the ummah of Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam except that they should offer their salaat with jama’at.’ In other words, they have even started leaving this out.”

6. Many companions of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam report that he said: “The person who hears the adhaan and yet does not attend the jama’at, his salaat will not be accepted.” After quoting this Hadith, Imam Tirmidhi says that some ulama have stated that this ruling is for emphasis. The purpose of this is that it is not permissible to leave out the jama’at without any valid excuse.

7. Once, Mujahid said to Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhu: “What do you have to say in regard to that person who fasts the entire day and offers salaat throughout the night but does not attend jumu’ah nor the jama’at?” He replied: “He will enter hell.” (Tirmidhi) In explaining this Hadith, Imam Tirmidhi says that this rule will apply if a person leaves out jumu’ah and jama’at out of total disregard for them. But if we regard the entry into hell for a few days, then the above explanation will not be necessary.

8. It was the practice of our pious predecessors that if anyone did not come for the jama’at, they used to boycott him for seven days. (Ihya ul-Uloom)

 

Opinions of the Ulama with regard to the Importance of Jama’at

We have quoted a few sayings of the Sahabah, which in reality portray the words of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. Now let us look at the ulama and mujtahideen and see what they have to say in regard to jama’at and how they understood these Ahadith.

1. The Zaahiriyyah and a few followers of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal rahmatullahi alayh say that jama’at is a prerequisite in order for the salaat to be valid. Without jama’at, the salaat is not valid.

2. The correct opinion of Imam Ahmad is that jama’at is fard-e-ayn even though it is not a prerequisite for salaat. This is also the opinion of a few followers of Imam Shafi’i rahmatullahi alayh.

3. Some of the followers of Imam Shafi’i are of the opinion that jama’at is fard-e-kifaayah. This is also the opinion of Imam Tahaawi rahamatullahi alayhi, a high ranking jurist and muhaddith of the Hanafis.

4. Most of the Hanafi scholars are of the opinion that jama’at is wajib. Ibn Humaam, Halabi, the author of Bahrur Raa’iq, and others are also of this opinion.

5. Some Hanafi scholars say that jama’at is sunnat-e-mu’akkadah but it falls under wajib. So, in reality, there is no contradiction between these two opinions of the Hanafis.

6. Our jurists have written that if the people of a city abandon jama’at and do not establish this noble institution even after instructing them to do so, it will be permissible to wage war against them.

7. It is written in Quniyah and other books that it is wajib on the imam of the time to punish the person who leaves out jama’at without any valid excuse, and that his neighbour will be sinful if he does not reprimand him on this action of his.

8. If a person delays his going to the musjid until the commencement of the iqaamah, he will be committing a sin. This is so because if he is going to go to the musjid only after hearing the iqaamah, there is the danger of him missing a few rakaats if not the entire salaat. It has been reported from Imam Muhammad rahamutallahi alayh that it is permissible to rush to the musjid in order to get the jumu’ah salaat and the jama’at. This is on condition that he will not be overburdened.

9. The one who leaves out the jama’at is most certainly committing a sin and his testimony (in an Islamic court) will not be accepted. This is on condition that he left it out without any valid excuse, and due to sheer laziness.

10. If a person is fully occupied in learning or teaching matters of the Deen and does not attend the jama’at, this will not be regarded as a valid excuse and his testimony (in an Islamic court) will not be accepted.

 

The Benefits and Wisdom of Jama’at

The ulama have written considerably on this subject. But as far as I know, there isn’t a more comprehensive and eloquent article than that which has been written by Hadrat Maulana Shah Wali Ullah rahmatullahi alayh. Although it would have been preferable for me to quote his article word for word, for the sake of brevity, I will merely give a summary of what he has written.

1. There is nothing more beneficial or profitable than making a particular form of ibaadah into a second nature to the extent that that ibaadah becomes a necessity and it becomes impossible to leave it just as it is almost impossible to give up a particular habit. And there is no form of ibaadah greater than salaat which could be accorded such importance.

2. In matters of religion, we find all sorts of people – the learned as well as the ignorant. There is therefore great wisdom in this that everyone gets together and fulfils this ibaadah in the presence of each other. If someone makes a particular mistake, another person is there to correct him. It is as if this ibaadah of Allah Ta’ala is a jewel and all the inspectors are examining it: if there is any defect in it, they point it out, and if there is any merit or excellence in it, they appreciate it. So this is an excellent means for the perfection of salaat.

3. The position of those who do not offer their salaat will also come into the open. In this way, one has the opportunity of advising them.

4. The gathering of a few Muslims who render an ibaadah to Allah Ta’ala and beseech Him has a special effect for the descending of mercy and acceptance in the sight of Allah.

5. The aim and object of Allah Ta’ala with regards to this ummah is that the kalimah must supercede everything and that kufr must be subdued, and that no religion must be able to overpower Islam. This can only be possible if certain steps are adopted whereby all the Muslims – the masses, the learned, the travellers, the inhabitants of places, the young, and the old – get together for a particular ibaadah which is great and famous, thereby exhibiting the grandeur and power of Islam. Because of all these merits and qualities, the entire attention of the Shariah directed itself towards the jama’at, encouraged it, and laid down strict prohibitions on discarding it.

6. Another benefit of the jama’at is that all the Muslims will be fully aware of each others conditions and circumstances, and will be able to share each others difficulties and problems. In this way, religious brotherhood and love which is based on Imaan will be fully exhibited and consolidated. This is one of the great objects of the Shariah and its significance and virtue has been mentioned repeatedly in the Quran and Hadith. It is indeed sad that the discarding of jama’at has become a norm in our times. Let alone the ignorant masses, many learned people are also caught in this evil web. It is extremely sad that these people read the Ahadith and even understand their meanings, but the importance of jama’at does not have any effect on their hearts which are harder than stone. What answer will these people give when they will stand in front of Allah Ta’ala and all the appeals with regards to salaat will be presented before everything else, and investigations will commence with those who discarded salaat entirely or partly?