Congregation: Its obligatory status

Q116 :What are the rules for holding a congregational prayer? How do worshipers stand? What is the advantage of praying in a congregation? Is it compulsory to form a congregation?

A116 : To pray in a congregation i.e. with jama'ah is a distinctive aspect of Islamic worship. Many scholars consider that holding a congregational prayer and joining congregational prayers is compulsory for all Muslims. Allah says in the Qur'an; "Bow down with those who bow down." This is a clear reference to prayer. If it was not a duty, we would have been given a concession not to pray in congregation when we are in a state of fear. Allah, however, has changed the requirements of prayer in such state without canceling its congregational aspect. It does not mean, that every Muslims must offer every single obligatory prayer in a congregation. It means that the holding of a congregational prayer is an obligation of the community and it is also obligatory on every individual to be keen in congregation prayer whenever possible. Such attendance is indeed a marking of strong faith. From the literature of early Islamic periods, we can conclude that a person was considered good if he regularly offered his obligatory prayer with the congregation in the mosque. Moreover, offering a prayer in a congregation enhances our reward. The Prophet says that praying with the congregation earns 27 times the reward of the same prayer offered individually. Since every one of us is always in need of greater reward from Allah, we should be keen to offer our obligatory prayers in the mosque with the congregation. The Prophet also recommends us to offer obligatory prayers at home, so that our homes are not denied the blessings of prayer. The minimum number of worshipers required for congregation is two, one of whom should be the imam. If there are only two worshipers, the imam stands a little ahead and the other person stands to his right. If there are more than two, then the imam stands on his own and the other worshipers, stand in a row, leaving a distance which is sufficient for them to do their prostration. If one row is complete and a second row is to be formed, it starts at the point exactly behind the imam and worshipers stand to the imam's right and left, in a balanced way. Every new line starts in the same way, right behind the imam. But it should have at least two people. If the last line is complete, the next one cannot be started by one person only. He either pulls one of the people in the last row back so that they could form a new line or he should wait until another person comes in to join the prayer. In a congregational prayer, the worshipers follow the imam without leaving any gap between his movement and theirs. When he gives the signal for the next movement, all worshipers follow suit. [Care must be taken not to advance your action in anticipation of that signal for the next movement].

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )