Virtues of Congregational Prayers

As Salat is a compulsion on a believer so is its offering in congregation. Islam is a religion which does not entertain individualism at any level. Be it in war or peace, offering of Salat or payment of Zakat. The prophet of ALLAH taught the ummah to reside in group rather than solitarily, perform the duties of Islam in assembly rather than individually.

The Salat, a foremost obligation on a Muslim, is to be offered in congregation. Just to drive the people towards congregation ALLAH has promised more reward in congregation rather than performing in isolation. In one hadith Prophet PBUH said “Offering the prayer in congregation carries 27 times greater reward than offering it alone individually.” (Bukhari, Muslim). This reward rises exponentially if the person offers Salat in Makkah (Masjid-e-haram), Madinah (Masid-e-nabawi) and Jerusalem (Masjid-e-Aqsa). Similarly there is another hadith in which Prophet PBUH said “If the people come to know of the great rewards and benefits of the congregational prayer, they would never stay back but would rush to the masjid for it. The first row merits the highest reward. Two persons praying together get greater rewards than the same praying individually, the rule being that, the bigger the congregation the higher it’s worth in the sight of ALLAH.” (Abu Dawud)

Abdullah ibn Maktoom, a companion of the Prophet PBUH who was blind, once came to the messenger of ALLAH and asked him, “Oh Messenger of ALLAH, I am blind, live at a distance, and do not have someone to guide him to the mosque, so can’t you give me consent to pray at home?” He said “Do you hear the call (adhan)?” Ibn Maktoom replied “Yes”. The Prophet PBUH then said “I cannot find an excuse for you.” This clearly proves when a blind was not given consent to pray at home then one who is physically blessed and with no abnormalities, can ever think of abstaining himself from congregation.

The wrath of staying away from congregational prayers could be best understood by this hadith. The Prophet of ALLAH said “Nothing is harder on the hypocrites than the Isha and Fajr prayer; had they known of the great rewards that ALLAH would bestow for those prayers they would never had missed them even if they had to come to the masjid on their knees” Then he said, “I wish I should tell a Mua’dhin to pronounce the iqamah and appoint someone as Imam in my place, and I should myself go and set fire to the houses of those who do not come out even after hearing the adhan. (Bukhari, Muslim). This should be sufficient for us to understand the gravity of leaving the congregation.

Mentioned below are collections of few traditions of Prophet PBUH which reveal the rewards of congregational prayers

  1. Narrated Anas, Prophet PBUH said: “The person who offers his prayers continuously for 40 days without missing the first takbeer, is granted a two-fold immunity by ALLAH: immunity from Hell-fire and immunity from hypocrisy. (Tirmidhi)
  2. Narrated Usman, that he heard the Prophet PBUH saying “The person who observes the Isha prayer in congregation, will have the reward and blessings of staying up half the night in prayer, and the one who observes the Fajr prayer in congregation will have the reward and blessings of staying up the whole night in prayer.” (Tirmidhi)
  3. Prophet PBUH said “Give good news to those who go to the masjid in the darkness of the night to offer the prayer in congregation that on the Day of Judgment they will be provided with a perfect light.” (Tirmidhi)

The prophet PBUH said: “O Muslims! ALLAH has prescribed paths of right guidance for you, among which, is the offering of the daily prayers in congregation in the masjid. If you start saying your prayers individually at home, as so-and-so do, you will be forsaking the Sunnah of your Prophet, and if you forsake the Sunnah of your Prophet, you will certainly be going astray.” (Muslim).


Pray before you are prayed upon

The religion of Islam stands majestically on five pillars as stated in one of the hadith as Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Islam is based on five (pillars): testifying that there is no true God except Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His slave and Messenger; performing of Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat); the payment of Zakat; performing Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House [of Allah (Ka`bah)]; and Saum (fasting) during the month of Ramadan.” [Bukhari and Muslim].

Offering Salat is nothing but a form of worship which establishes a link between the man and his creator. Through Salat a man communicates with his creator. Salat is the best way of remembrance of Allah SWT as Allah SWT Himself says “Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance”[Taha 20:14]. Moreover Salat is the best way out for an individual to shun his pride. By prostrating in Salat the slave of Allah affirms that he is nothing more than dust of the floor.

As soon as an individual enters into the fold of Islam by testifying Shadah, the next thing that becomes obligatory on him is to perform Salat five times a day. The chapter of Salat is described with great emphasis in both Quran and Sunnah. It acts as a borderline between the believer and a non believer as Prophet PBUH said, “That which differentiates us from the disbelievers and hypocrites is our performance of Salat. He, who abandons it, becomes a disbeliever.”[At-Tirmidhi]. The position of all four madhaahib–Maliki, Shafi’ee, Hanbali, and Hanafi–with no difference of opinion–is that a person who does not pray, ever, is not a Muslim. Scholars are of a mixed opinion regarding this tradition; some say the one who believes leaving Salat is permissible, becomes kafir whereas the one who leaves it because of sagginess is not a kafir. Some scholars think that if such a person does not repent then he is liable to Hadd i.e. death punishment. There are some scholars who think instead of death punishment such a person should be subjected to corporal punishment till he starts offering Salat.

Salat wipes the minor sins of a human being. Prophet PBUH said, “Let anyone tell me; if a stream flows by the house of any person and he baths in it five times a day, whether any dirt will remain on his body.” The companions replied that no dirt would remain in such a case. He said, “So is the case with prescribed prayers. Allah forgives ones sins (minor) on their account.”(Bukhari, Muslim)

An account of Salat will be the foremost deed to be dealt with on the day of resurrection. The Prophet PBUH said “The first of his actions for which a servant of Allah SWT will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded; and if they are inadequate, then he will have failed and lost. If there are any shortcomings in his obligatory prayers, the Lord (The Glorified and the Exalted) will say: See if My servant has any optional prayers with which may be compensated that which was flawed in his obligatory prayers. Then the rest of his actions will be judged likewise”. (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, an-Nasai, Ibn Majah and Ahmad). (Hadith Qudsi).

Blessings of Zuhr, Isha and fajr prayers, Prophet Muhammed PBUH said ” And if they could know the merit of retiring to the mosque early for noon prayers, they would go there running and if they were to know the blessings of night and early morning prayers, they would go to the mosque dragging themselves on their buttocks even if they had not the strength to walk up to it” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Similarly, the wrath of Asr prayer is as stated in one of the traditions of Prophet PBUH “Whoever misses the ‘Asr prayer (intentionally) then it is as if he lost his family and property.” (Bukhari).

The apathy of Muslims, in spite of knowing the compulsion of Salat thoroughly evidenced by Quran, are grossly complacent. This sorry attitude is the reason for our condition today. How can we expect ALLAH’s help and mercy when we show our callous approach in invoking His blessings through Salat. A humble request to my fellow Muslims is to establish regular Salat and in return expect countless favours and unlimited bounties from the almighty. Aameen.