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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Following the Imam in Prayer

Everyone who follows an imam while performing prayer--the Jumu^ah Prayer or other prayers--must fulfill the following obligations:

1. Not be ahead of one's imam in the standing position or in saying the opening Allahu akbar. The prayer of the follower (ma'mum) is invalid if he says his opening Allahu akbar during that of the imam. Simultaneity with the imam in other parts of the prayer is disliked (makruh), with the exception of saying: "Amin";

It is unlawful (haram) for the ma'mum to precede the imam by one integral action. One's prayer is invalidated by inexcusably preceding the imam by two consecutive integral actions which are both long or one is long and the other is short. Similarly, the ma'mum invalidates his prayer if he lags behind the imam by two integral actions without an excuse, and by more than three long integral actions despite an excuse. If the ma'mum stays behind to finish the Fatihah and during this time the imam has finished his ruku^ and two prostrations, and has sat for the tashahhud or stood up, then the ma'mum must stop reciting the Fatihah and be in unison with his imam. In addition to this, the ma'mum must perform a rak^ah after the closing salam of the imam. However, if the ma'mum finishes reciting the Fatihah before the imam has sat for the tashahhud or stood up for another rak^ah, then the ma'mum follows his own order until he catches up with the imam.

2. Know the movement of one's imam;

3. Be with one's imam in a mosque (masjid), or else within 300 cubits;

4. Not have any barrier between one (the ma'mum) and the imam which prevents one (the ma'mum) from reaching the imam;

5. Have the format of one's prayer agree with the format of the imam's prayer. For example, it is invalid for the performer of the daily obligatory prayer to follow the performer of the Funeral Prayer (Salat-al-Janazah);

6. Not disagree enormously with the imam in a recommended act (sunnah), like the sitting for the first tashahhud. If the imam does it or leaves it, then the ma'mum does it with the imam or stands up with him;

7. Have the intention to follow the imam while saying the opening Allahu akbar in the Jumu^ah Prayer, and in other prayers, before following the imam. If the ma'mum was performing the Jumu^ah Prayer without having the intention to follow the imam within the opening Allahu akbar, his prayer would be invalid. In other than the Jumu^ah Prayer, the intention to follow the imam must be in the heart before following the imam in his moves. Following the imam in his moves without the intention to follow invalidates the ma'mum's prayer. However, if one's moves agree with the imam's moves accidentally and unintentionally, one does not invalidate one's prayer. To sum up this matter: If one followed the imam's moves on purpose without an intention to pray in congregation (jama^ah), then one would invalidate his prayer whether he waited for a long or short time. However, if one waited for a long time but did not follow the imam's moves, his prayer would not be invalidated.

It is obligatory upon the imam to intend to lead the prayer in the Jumu^ah Prayer and the repeated prayer, but it is recommended (sunnah) to do that in other prayers. The repeated prayer is the prayer one reperforms after having prayed it alone because he found a person to pray jama^ah with him, or he has already prayed jama^ah but wants another person to earn the reward of jama^ah.


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