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Section II: The Imam

Firstly: The Conditions of an Imam Islam
The imam must be a Muslim. It is invalid for a non-Muslim to lead prayers. Ibn Hazm related consensus on this. Sound mind
The imam must be of sound mind. It is invalid for an insane person to lead prayers. Ibn Taymiyyah related consensus regarding the invalidity of an insane person leading prayers.
A drunk person leading prayers
It is invalid for a drunk person to lead the prayers. Ibn Taymiyyah related consensus regarding the invalidity of a drunk person’s prayer. If his prayer is invalid in itself, it is not valid for others. Being male
The imam must be a man. Women cannot lead men in prayer. If they do so, their prayer is invalid by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
An intersex imam leading men
An ambiguous intersex individual [482] This has been previously defined. may not lead men in prayer by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
An intersex imam leading women
An ambiguous intersex individual may lead women in prayer by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. Ability to recite
Recitation is a condition for leading prayers. It is not valid to pray behind one who is mute by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
Secondly: What is not Required for Leading the Prayer Being morally upright
It is not a condition that the imam be morally upright. Prayer behind an irreligious person is valid but makruh. This is the position of the Hanafi and Shafi`i schools, the official position of Malikis, [483] According to them, being upright is not a condition if his irreligiousness is not related to prayer. and the position of choice of Ibn Hazm.
Praying behind an innovator
It is valid to pray behind an innovator [484] Ibn Taymiyyah says: “As for ‘praying behind an innovator’, this issue is contentious and nuanced. If you find no other imam – such as a Friday prayer that is only held in one place, the Eid prayers, and like prayers performed during hajj behind the imam of pilgrims – these are prayed behind every pious and wicked person by agreement of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah.” (Majmu` al-Fatawa, 23/355) whose innovation does not take him outside the fold of Islam. This is the position of the Hanafi and Shafi`i schools, one position among Malikis, and the position of choice of Ibn Baz and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Praying behind one whose state is unknown
It is valid to pray behind any Muslim whose state is hidden [485] This is a person who we don’t know to be either upright or irreligious. and who has no apparent innovations or wickedness. Consensus on this was related by Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Abu al-`Izz al-Hanafi. Puberty
It is not a condition that the imam have passed puberty. Thus, prayer behind a child of sound mind is valid. This is the position of the Shafi`i school and one narration from Ahmad. It is the position of a group of the Salaf. It is the position of choice of Ibn al-Mundhir, al-Shawkani, al-San`ani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin. Eyesight
It is not a condition that the imam be able to see, so it is valid for a person who can see to pray behind a blind imam. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. [486] Hanafis deem this makruh. Malikis hold that it is makruh to make a blind man an official imam. The imam following the same juristic positions as the follower
It is not a condition that the imam follow the same juristic positions as the follower. Thus, praying behind one who follows different juristic positions is valid. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, [487] Though Hanafis hold that it is permissible, without being makruh, to follow an imam ascribing to different juristic positions if he is precautious about differences of opinion. If he is not precatious about differences of opinion, then following him is permissible but makruh. Malikis, and Hanbalis.
Thirdly: Who is Worthiest of Leading Prayers An authority figure
An authority figure is unconditionally the worthiest person to lead prayer by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. The man of the house
The man of the house is the worthiest person to lead prayer even if others have greater understanding and are more virtuous. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. The official imam of a mosque
The official imam of a mosque is the worthiest person to lead prayer even if others have greater understanding and are more virtuous. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. The most versed in Qur’an and jurisprudence
The one most versed in the Qur’an [488] Most Hadiths indicate that the one most versed in the Qur’an is the one with the most memorised, not the best at reciting. is worthier than the one most versed in jurisprudence. This is the position of the Hanbali school, Abu Yusuf the Hanafi, one position among Shafi`is, and a position of a group from the Salaf. It is the position of choice of Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-San`ani, al-Shawkani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Fourthly: A Woman Leading Women in Prayer The ruling of a woman leading women in prayer
It is permissible for a woman to lead women in prayer. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, [489] Hanafis hold that a woman leading the prayer is makruh. Shafi`is, and Hanbalis. It is also the position of a group of the Salaf. Where a woman leading women in prayer should stand
If a woman leads other women in prayer, she should stand in the middle of them. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Shafi`is, and Hanbalis. Women reciting aloud in prayer
A woman leading other women in prayer recites out loud in prayers that are offered out loud unless she is in the presence of men who are not unmarriageable kin (mahram). This is the position of the Shafi`i and Hanbali schools, and was chosen by Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Fifthly: The Position of the Imam Relative to Followers in Prayer Where a single follower stands
It is sunnah for a single follower to stand to the right of the imam by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. Where two or more followers stand
When followers are two or more, it is sunnah for them to stand behind the imam. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. Elevation of the imam
It is makruh for the imam to stand higher than the followers [490] Ibn `Uthaymin says: “Some scholars have shown that this is not always the case, such as when the imam is not alone where he stands. If someone is with him, it is not makruh, even if he is elevated by more than a cubit, because the imam is not alone in any place. There is no doubt that this is a sound opinion.”  (Al-Sharh al-Mumti`, 4/301) They differ regarding the elevation that is makruh. Some make an exception when it is for the purposes of teaching. by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. Elevation of the followers
It is valid for the followers to stand higher than the imam. This is the position of the Maliki and Hanbali schools, al-Tahawi the Hanafi, and the position of choice of al-Shawkani [491] As long as it is not excessive. Al-Shawkani says: “As for the elevation of the follower, if it is excessive – e.g. higher than 300 cubits such that the follower cannot know what the imam is doing – this is not allowed. This is based on consensus, but without distinguishing between mosques and other places. Even though the actual distance would be less, the default is permissibility until evidence is provided that it is not allowed.” (Nayl al-Awtar, 3/231-232) and Ibn `Uthaymin. The follower standing ahead of the imam in prayer
The follower must not stand ahead of the imam in prayer. If he stands ahead of the imam in the same direction as the imam [492] As for if the follower is not facing the same direction as the imam, then the prayer is not invalidated. This can be understood if one imagines them praying around the Ka`bah. If they stand in a circle around the Ka`bah, then if some of them are closer to the Ka`bah than the imam but not in the same direction, rather on the opposite side, then their prayer is valid.  while in prayer, the follower’s prayer is invalid. [493] One of the scholars said that it is valid if there is a valid reason to do so. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Shafi`is, and Hanbalis. Where women stand with respect to men
Women form lines behind men. Consensus on this was related by Ibn `Abd al-Barr and Ibn Rajab. Where a single woman stands in congregational prayer
A woman may stand alone behind men if there are no other women in the congregation. Her prayer would be valid in such an arrangement. Consensus on this was related by Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Rajab, and Ibn Hajar. Lining up for prayer
The imam ordering those behind him to straighten the rows
It is sunnah for the imam to order those behind him to straighten the rows. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
The ruling of straightening the rows
Scholars hold two positions regarding the ruling of straightening the rows for prayer:
The first position: It is sunnah to straighten the rows for prayer. [494] Al-Nawawi says: “What is meant by straightening the rows is completing the first rows first and closing gaps. One stands next to those standing such that no one’s chest – or any other part of him – is ahead of the person next to him. He does not start with the second row until the first is complete. He does not stand in a row until the one ahead of it is complete.” (Al-Majmu`, 4/226) This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
The second position: It is wajib to straighten the rows for prayer. This is the position of choice of Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Hajar, al-`Ayni, al-San`ani, and Ibn `Uthaymin. The verdict of the Permanent Council is according to this position.
The ruling of praying between pillars
It is makruh for a follower to pray between pillars that interrupt the rows unless there is a need, such as the mosque being crowded, in which case it is not makruh. This is the position of the Maliki and Hanbali schools, Ishaq, and the position of choice of al-Shawkani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Praying alone in a row
Scholars are of two positions regarding a man praying alone in a row:
The first position: Praying behind a row alone is invalid, and the prayer must be repeated. This is the position of the Hanbali school and a group of the Salaf. It is the position of choice of Ibn Hazm, al-San`ani, and Ibn Baz.
The second position: Praying behind a row alone is valid but makruh. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, and Shafi`is. Following the imam outside of the mosque
Followers may pray behind the imam outside [495] It is not valid to follow an imam through a radio or television even if one hears his voice or sees him through these devices. This is because the rows of prayer are not contiguous. of the mosque or inside the mosque when there is a barrier – as long as the rows are contiguous. [496] It is valid for women to follow the imam from a women’s prayer hall as long as it is part of the mosque and they can hear his voice. As for outside of the mosque, it is not valid to follow the imam unless the mosque is full and the rows inside are contiguous with those outside the mosque, in which case there is no harm. Ibn Taymiyyah related consensus on this.
Sixthly: Rulings Related to Leading the Prayers and Following Accepting payment for leading prayers
Scholars have differed regarding the ruling of accepting payment for leading prayers. There are multiple positions, the strongest of which are two:
The first position: It is haram to accept payment to lead prayers. This is the position of the Hanafi, [497] That being said, late Hanafis permitted receiving payment for leading prayers. Shafi`i, and Hanbali schools. It is the position of choice of Ibn `Uthaymin.
The second position: It is not permissible to accept payment to lead prayers except when a need exists. This is the position of choice of late Hanafis, one narration from Ahmad which Ibn Taymiyyah selected.
The ruling of taking sustenance from Bayt al-Mal in Lieu of Leading Prayers
It is permissible to take sustenance from Bayt al-Mal in lieu of leading prayers. This is the position of the Maliki, Shafi`i, [498] According to Shafi`is, this is permissible when the imam cannot find a donor. and Hanbali schools. Praying behind one who omits the integrals of prayer
One should not pray behind an imam who omits agreed-upon integrals of prayer. Ibn Taymiyyah related consensus on this. Praying behind an imam who makes mistakes in al-Fatihah
If the mistakes in al-Fatihah change the meaning
It is not valid to pray behind an imam whose mistakes in al-Fatihah change its meaning. This is the position of the Shafi`i and Hanbali [499] The Hanbalis hold that whoever omits a letter of al-Fatihah due to inability; changes it to a different letter, like one who pronounces the letter ra’ like ghayn; merges letters; or makes a mistake that changes the meaning, such as saying iyyaki or an`amtu, then if he is unable to correct his recitation, he is like an illiterate person (i.e. one who does not know al-Fatihah in this context): no one who can read (i.e. knows al-Fatihah) can follow him in prayer. Each one of these people with problematic recitation may lead the other in prayer, for they are both illiterate, so one can follow the other. schools, and one position among Malikis.
If the misakes do not change the meaning
It is makruh to pray behind an imam whose mistakes in al-Fathihah do not change its meaning, but prayer behind him is valid. This is the position of the Hanafi, Shafi`i, and Hanbali schools, and one position among Malikis. Praying behind one in a state of hadath
Whoever prays behind an imam knowing him to be in a state of major or minor hadath is sinful, and his prayer is invalid. Consensus on this was related by Ibn Hazm, Ibn al-Qassar, al-Nawawi, and al-`Ayni. The intentions of leading and following
The intention of leading
The intention of leading is not a condition for the validity of the congregation. This is the position of the Hanafi, [500] According to them, it is not a condition for hiarm leading men, as opposed to women. Maliki, [501] Although Malikis indicate that four prayers are exceptions, it bein necessary to intend leading in them: the Friday prayer, combining maghrib with `isha’, the prayer of fear, and a prayer in which a vice-imam is assigned. and Shafi`i schools and one narration from Ahmad. It is the position of choice of Ibn `Uthaymin.
The intention of following
The follower’s intention to follow the imam is a condition for the validity of the congregational prayer. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
Changing the intention from leading to following
If an imam says the opening Allahu Akbar due to the official imam not being present, then if the official imam attends the prayer and says the opening Allahu Akbar and those who followed his replacement follow him, their prayer is valid. This is explicitly mentioned by Shafi`is and Hanbalis. It is the position of choice of Ibn `Uthaymin.
Changing the intention from following to leading
This will be discussed in the section on appointing a vice-imam.
Changing the intention from leading or following to praying alone
It is permissible for a follower to intend praying alone and abandoning the imam for a valid reason. This is the position of the Shafi`i and Hanbali schools. It is the position of choice of Ibn `Uthaymin. The Permanent Council gave its verdict according to this position. Changing the intention from praying alone to leading or following
Changing the intention from praying alone to leading
It is permissible for one praying alone to be an imam who leads others. This is the position of the Maliki and Shafi`i schools and one narration from Ahmad. It is the position of choice of Ibn Taymiyyah. It is also the position of al-Shawkani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Changing the intention from praying alone to following
Scholars hold two positions regarding changing the intention from praying alone to following:
The first position: It is invalid for one to say the opening Allahu Akbar intending to pray alone and then to intend following an imam. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, and Hanbalis.
The second position: It is permissible for one to say the opening Allahu Akbar intending to pray alone and then to intend following an imam. This is the position of the Shafi`i school, one narration from Ahmad, al-Shawkani, and Ibn `Uthaymin. When the imam’s intention differs from the follower’s
Praying a different wajib prayer than the imam
It is permissible to offer a different wajib prayer than the imam, such as when the follower prays zuhr behind an imam praying `asr. This is the position of the Shafi`i school, one narration from Ahmad, the position of the Zahiri school, and the position of a group of the Salaf. It is the position of choice of Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-San`ani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Offering a wajib prayer behind an imam offering an optional prayer
It is valid to offer a wajib prayer behind an imam offering an optional prayer. This is the position of the Shafi`i school, one narration from Ahmad, the position of the Zahiri school, and the position of a group of the Salaf. It is the position of choice of Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Taymiyyah, al-San`ani, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Offering an optional prayer behind an imam offering a wajib prayer
It is valid to offer an optional prayer behind an imam offering a wajib prayer. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence and is the position of the Zahiri school.
When one intends offering a current prayer and the other intends a make-up prayer
If one of the imam or the follower intends a current prayer’s performance and the other intends making up a missed prayer, this does not harm the validity of the prayer. This is the position of the Shafi`i and Hanbali schools. It is the position of choice of Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin. Following the imam
The ruling of the follower following the imam
It is wajib upon the follower to follow his imam and not to contravene his leadership. This is generally true. [502] Ibn Rushd says: “There is consensus among scholars that the follower is obliged to follow the imam in all of his words and actions except when he says ‘Allah hears those who praise Him’ and when he sits in prayer due to illness according to those who permit one who sits in prayer to lead.” (Bidayat al-Mujtahid, 1/150) Consensus on this was related by Ibn Hazm, Ibn `Abd al-Barr, and Ibn Rushd.
The effect of an imam’s mistake on the follower’s prayer
Mistakes that the imam makes – such as ending the prayer early or praying five units – do not invalidate the follower’s prayer if he doesn’t follow him in doing so. Consensus on this was related by Ibn Taymiyyah.
When a follower lags behind the imam by an integral
Scholars differ regarding a follower lagging behind the imam by an integral. [503] Such as when the imam bows and rises before the follower bows. Another example is when the imam rises from the first prostration and the follower remains supplicating Allah in prostration until the imam prostrates a second time. The strongest positions are two:
The first position: If a follower deliberately lags behind the imam by a single integral without valid excuse, then his prayer is invalid. This is the position of the Hanbali [504] Hanbalis hold this to be the case for bowing only. school, one position among Shafi`is, and the position of choice of Ibn `Uthaymin.
The second position: If a follower lags behind the imam by a single integral, his prayer is not invalidated. This is the position of the Hanafi and Shafi`i schools, and one narration from Ahmad. The rulings related to preceding the imam
Preceding the imam with the opening Allahu Akbar
If the follower precedes the imam with the opening Allahu Akbar, he has not followed the imam to begin with. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
Preceding the imam in bowing, rising from it, or prostration
It is haram to precede the imam in bowing, rising from it, and prostration. Consensus on this was related by Ibn Taymiyyah. [505] There is a difference of opinion when the follower precedes the imam then returns to following the imam before the imam changes position.
A follower preceding the imam in starting an integral
Scholars have differed regarding a follower preceding the imam in starting an integral (i.e. whether it invalidates the follower’s prayer), holding three positions:
The first position: A follower preceding his imam in starting an integral does not invalidate his prayer. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, and Shafi`is.
The second position: A follower preceding his imam in starting an integral invalidates prayer unless he returns and re-performs it after and with his imam, in which case the prayer is not invalidated. This is the position of the Hanbali school.
The third position: Whenever a follower deliberately precedes his imam in starting an integral, his prayer is invalid. This is regardless of whether he returns to perform it with him, after him, or not at all. This is according to one narration from Ahmad, one position of the Shafi`i school, and the position of Ibn Baz and Ibn `Uthaymin.
A follower preceding the imam by a complete integral
Scholars have differed regarding a follower who precedes the imam by a complete integral, such as if he bows and rises before the imam. There are two positions:
The first position: If a follower deliberately precedes his imam by a complete integral, then his prayer is invalid. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, [506] They hold that it is invalidated if, for example, he bows and lifts his head before the imam and does not repeat it with him or after him and then ends the prayers with salams. Malikis, [507] They hold that if someone alerts him before he ends his prayer with salams such that he prostrates twice and then ends the prayer, his prayer is valid. If he remains unaware of this until he ends his prayer, his prayer is invalid. and Hanbalis. It is the position of a group of Shafi`is.
The second position: It is haram to precede the imam by a complete integral, and one must return to following the imam. If one does not do so until the imam reaches him, his prayer is not invalidated. This is the position of the Shafi`i school.
If the follower says the opening Allahu Akbar with the imam
If the follower says the opening Allahu Akbar with the imam, his prayer has not started. This is the position of the majority: the Malikis, Shafi`is, and Hanbalis. It is also the position of Abu Yusuf the Hanafi and Dawud al-Zahiri. The prayer of a latecomer
The latecomer and al-Fatihah
The imam bears the burden of reciting al-Fatihah for the follower. A follower catches the unit of prayer by offering a sufficient bowing behind the imam. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence, and it is the position of a group from the Salaf.
The follower follows the imam in whatever position he finds him
Whoever arrives finding that the imam has already offered a portion of the prayer, be it much or little, prays behind him. Consensus on this was related by Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyyah.
When the latecomer makes up what he has missed
The latecomer makes up what he has missed after the imam gives salams. Consensus on this was related by Ibn `Abd al-Barr and Ibn Battal.
How a latecomer completes his prayer
A latecomer makes up what he missed according to his own prayer. Consensus on this was related by Ibn `Abd al-Barr.
How a latecomer says Allahu Akbar
If a latecomer finds the imam bowing and says the opening Allahu Akbar then bows, this Allahu Akbar suffices him from saying Allahu Akbar when bowing on condition that the opening Allahu Akbar be said while standing. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence, and it is the position of a group among the Salaf. The ruling of correcting the imam
Correcting [508] Correcting the imam is when the follower recites the passage that the imam stopped at back to the imam, dictating it to him. the imam is legislated whenever he becomes mentally blocked [509] What is meant by ‘mentally blocked’ is that the imam is unable to continue recitation. or makes a mistake. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. [510] Except that Hanbalis hold that it is wajib to correct the imam if he is mentally blocked when reciting al-Fatihah or makes a mistake in it, for the validity of prayer depends on it. Assigning a follower to repeat the imam’s transitions in the congregational prayer
When the imam’s voice reaches the followers
If the imam’s voice reaches the followers, it is not mustahabb for any of the followers to repeat the imam’s transitions. Ibn Taymiyyah related consensus on this.
When the imam’s voice does not reach the followers
If the imam’s voice does not reach the followers, it is mustahabb for one of the followers to repeat the imam’s transitions. [511] Al-Hattab says: “This is practiced in many lands, and scholars are abundant.” (Mawahib al-Jaleel, 2/456) This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence.
Seventhly: What is Mustahabb for the Imam During Congregational Prayer Keeping the prayer short
It is mustahabb for the imam to keep the prayer short and makruh that he lengthen it. This is by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. If the imam senses someone has entered the place of prayer while he is bowing
If the imam senses that someone has entered the place of prayer while he is bowing, it is mustahabb for him to wait for the newcomer as long as this is not burdensome upon the followers. This is the sound position of the Shafi`i school and the position of the Hanbali school. It is the position of choice of Ibn Baz and Ibn `Uthaymin.
Eighthly: Rulings Related to Appointing a Vice-Imam in Congregational Prayer The ruling of appointing a vice-imam [512] Appointing a vice-imam (istikhlaf) is when the imam appoints one of the followers to complete the prayer with them due to something having befallen him. Jurists have listed conditions for appointing a vice-imam, including: -         That the imam appoint someone worthy of leading. -         That the appointment occur before the imam leaves the mosque. -         That it be in congregation, because if there is only one follower behind the imam, it is not valid for him to appoint a vice-imam. -         Among the conditions of appointing a vice-imam is that he caught the prayer before bowing; i.e. before the completion of bowing. -         That the appointment occur before the followers perform an integral.
Appointing a vice-imam is legislated [513] Though they differ in the degree that they consider it legislated. by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. [514] Malikis are of the position that appointing a vice-imam is mustahabb. Reasons for appointing a vice-imam
Involuntary hadath
When hadath involuntary befalls the imam, [515] i.e. Hadath befell him despite himself. his prayer is invalid and he abandons it. The prayer of the followers is valid. The imam chooses one of the followers to complete the prayer with them. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi`is, and one narration from Hanbalis. It is the position of a group of the Salaf.
Inability to recite
If the imam is unable [516] Inability to recite here means being stripped of the ability to recite, such that it becomes impossible. to recite what is wajib, he assigns one of the followers to complete the prayer. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, [517] Except that Malikis hold that a vice-imam is not appointed due to inability to recite part of a surah. and Hanbalis.
Fear
If the imam becomes afraid, such as fearing some harm, he assigns one of the followers to complete the prayer. This is the position of the majority: the Hanafis, Malikis, and Hanbalis. Assigning a latecomer to complete the prayer
It is not a condition that the vice-imam be a follower from the start of the prayer. Rather, it is valid to assign this role to a latecomer by agreement of the four schools of jurisprudence. [518] Malikis stipulate that the appointed vice-imam must have caught at least part of what was before the termination of bowing in the unit of prayer appointed.




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