Lesson 22 : Praying Salat in Congregation
Afif the son of Qays was sitting with Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib when he saw a man approach the Holy Ka'abah. The man stood facing the Holy house, a youth and a woman came and stood behind him. When the man bowed, the youth and woman bowed too and when he prostrated on the ground, they followed him in action.
Afif turned to Abbas and asked him if he knew who the man was and what he was doing. Abbas replied "O Afif! The man standing right in front is Muhammad, son of Abdullah. And the handsome boy is Ali, son of Abu Taalib.
That lady is Khadija, wife of Muhammad. Muhammad says that he has been given divine orders from the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and that he has been bestowed with the Risalah so as to guide mankind to the right path.
"He also says 'Allah (S.W.T.) has commanded me to enjoin mankind towards the virtues of prayers.' and thus they pray in congregation in this manner." It is true that the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.w.) enlightened us towards the worship of Allah (S.W.T.) and taught us the beautiful form of Salaat.
He taught us that, "Prayer is only in congregation". This means that we must attempt to pray in congregation at all times and should only pray alone if the circumstances force us to.
Islam encourages peace, love, harmony, co-operation and social interaction with between Muslims so as to create unity and brotherhood amongst them. Such encouragement towards communal practices can be seen in all acts of Ebaadah. Prayer in particular is one of the most adorable acts of worship, especially when performed in congregation.
The history of Islam clearly shows that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.)'s constantly advised his followers to pray in Jama'at (Congregation). During his Be'that, he guided the Muslims to not only pray for one another but love and care for each other in order to spread the true word of Islam.
This unity allowed the Muslims to withstand all the tortures and attacks from the Kuffar.
In fact, they loved to pray together so much that several incidents are found where they followed the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) up the mountains so that they could pray behind him in Jam'aat. Even in midst of battles, they tried not to miss a single opportunity of praying in congregation.
One of the greatest examples of the importance of Salaat is that shown to us on the day of Ashoora. Our third Holy Imam, Hussayn (a.s.) stood on the plains of Karbala, surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers yet, in the middle of battle, he and his faithful followers prayed in Jama'at at the time for prayers. Such was their intense love, faith and submission to the Almighty!
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.w.) made it very clear that avoiding congregational prayers was amongst the signs of hypocrisy and Kufr. It is therefore our duty to take his orders on salaat seriously.
Praying together has great benefits on the society. The standing in lines, shoulder to shoulder - rich, poor, black, brown, white, all the same in the eyes of the Lord - and Musaafaha (hand shaking after prayers) creates a strong bond of friendship which if nurtured, blossoms in the Muslim communities and becomes a shining example for others to emulate.
Prayer in Jama'at allows people to get to know each other and creates love between Muslim brothers.
Our eighth Holy Imam, Al-Redha (a.s.) has said:
"Anyone who intentionally makes (lame) excuses for not attending the congregational prayers will not be accepted by the Almighty Creator."
When praying in congregation it is necessary to follow an Imam (leader). This man must be God-fearing, just and one who is acquainted with the Islamic Sheriat. Only then can he lead others in prayer.
During congregational prayers, all must stand in absolute discipline and order behind the Imam and show humility towards the Lord and the Master of the Universe. You must try and feel His presence and love in your heart.
After Takbiratul-Ehraam when you raise your hands to the skies and say "Allaho Akbar", try and feel the greatness of Allah (S.W.T.) and realise how weak you are in front of His Majesty. Sincerity of intention is one of the most important requirements in communication with the Lord.
The followers of Jama'at must follow the Imam in all the actions in prayers. In the first 2 Rakaats (units), while the Imam recites Sura Al-Hamd and any another short Sura, his followers must remain silent and concentrate on the words. However, all other dhikr may be read (silently) by those in Jama'at. It has been said by our eighth Holy Imam, Al-Redha (a.s.):
"One rakaat of Salaat in congregation is equivalent to a thousand rakaats of fardh (individual) prayers!"
"Fill the mosques with your presence, for they are the central pivot of Islam. Indeed! The enemies are afraid of the mosques and their worshippers." The great spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Imam Khomeini (May the Almighty be pleased with his soul) said:
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT…
For a man to qualify as Imam for leading Jama'at he must be known to be Just, possess Taqwa (Piety) and be able to recite the dhikr correctly.
It is highly recommended to pray in congregation in the Mosque so as to attract a large attendance of worshippers. Countless reward is bestowed to those who attend in Jama'at.
Whenever it is difficult to attend the Jama'at prayers in the mosque, you should arrange to pray in Jama'at at home, at school, or at your place of work. Anyone who has the criterion for being the Imam can conduct the prayers.
Islam is a way of Life. It encourages social activities that motivate and mobilise the spirit of love, unity and brotherhood.
Salaat was originally in Jama'at.
Attendance in congregational prayers is a sign of a practising Muslim.
The masjid (mosque) is a central strong point of Islam.
Think and Answer
Compare the results of congregational and individual prayers.
What are the conditions that the Imam leading Jama'at prayers must fulfil?
What is the reward for joining the congregation according to the sayings of the eighth Holy Imam, al-Redha (a.s.)?
What does the fifth Holy Imam, al-Baqir (a.s.) advise in reference to anyone who is reluctant in joining Salaatul Jama'at?
What are your experiences in Salaatul Jama'at? These days do many Muslims pray in congregation?
Prayer of the Mercy-Seeking Servant
A learned man laid his head against the door of the Ka'abah in Mecca. I happened to be near him and listened to him praying to Allah (S.W.T.). He spoke thus:
"O Merciful Allah (S.W.T.)! What can a sinful and ignorant man like me do before You that might be worthy of Your pleasure? I have no claim on the score of obedience and beg Your forgiveness for my imperfect performance.
The wicked repent their sins and those who know Allah (S.W.T.) confess deficiency in worship. The pious hope for Your mercy, like beggars. Do to me what is worthy of You, and do not deal with me as I deserve."