Fiqh Issue: Ruling on Praying alone behind the Row

In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, Most Merciful. May peace and salutations be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and companions. As for what follows;

Question: Some differing has occured between a group of those who establish the prayer regarding one who enters into the masjid late and finds that the salah has already begun and the line(s) are full and complete and he has no place to stand in the row. Is it permissible for him to pull a person back with him to join him in this row? Or should he pray by himself behind the row or what should he do?

Sheikh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen, may Allaah have mercy upon him, says: “This issue has three circumstances: If a person comes and finds that the row is complete either he:

1: Prays by himself behind the row.

2: Pulls someone from that row to pray with him.

3: Proceeds and prays on the right side of the Imaam.

These three circumstances are when he enters into the prayer. The last instance is that he leaves off the prayer in congregation.

So what is the correct choice from these four circumstances?

We say that the correct one is that he prays alone by himself in the row along with the Imaam, i.e. along with the congregation. This is because it is obligatory to pray in congregation and in a row, these two are obligatory. So if one of them drops -in this instance praying in the row- the other still remains which is praying in congregation.

So we say here; pray in congregation behind the row so that you can attain the merit of praying in congregation and standing in the row in this particular instance isn’t mandatory upon you due to your incapability of doing it. And Allaah, glorified be He and Most High, has stated: “So fear Allaah as much as you are able.” [64:16]

What supports this is that the woman prays alone behind the row when there are no other women present with her because she doesn’t have a legislated place in the mens row. So once her legislated place in the mens row is absent she prays by herself.

Therefore this man who comes to the masjid and the line is complete and he doesn’t find any place to stand in the row, that obligation of standing in the row is lifted from him but the obligation of the congregation still remains so he should pray behind the row.

As for pulling someone back to pray with him, then this is unbefitting because there are three troubles included in this:

The first: There will be an opening left in that row and this is in opposition to what the Messenger, may Allaah grant him peace and safety, ordered with from straightening the rows and filling in the gaps.

The second: Removing this man from a superior station to an inferior one and this is a type of injustice done to him.

The third: Causing him confusion in his prayer. Because this person who is praying when he is pulled from his place this is going to cause his heart to be disturbed and this is also a type of injustice done to him.

The third instance is praying next to the Imaam and as we mentioned this is unbefitting. That is because the Imaam must be distinguished from those who are praying behind him regarding his place. Just as he is distinguished from them in relation to preceeding them in speech and action in the prayer, making the takbeer before them, bowing before them, prostrating before them, etc. so it is a must that he be distinguihsed from them by his place.

This is the guidance of the Prophet, may Allaah grant him peace and safety, that the Imaam precedes those praying behind him. And this is an apparent position that shows his distinguishment over them by way of him standing alone. So when someone stands with him this distinguishment is removed.

As for the fourth instance which is leaving off the prayer then this as well has no play whatsoever because praying in congregation is obligatory as well as lining up in rows and if one falls the other still remains.

Source: Majmoo’ Fataawaa wa Rasaail 15/204


About Abu Fouzaan Qaasim
American student studying in the Islaamic University of Medinah from Chester,PA.

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