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Importance of Congregational Prayer
Ziaul Islam, Riyadh

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
During the month of Ramadan the mosques become a focal point in every Muslim community. The mosques are full of men and young children of all ages at every prayer time. Even during the optional Taraweeh congregational prayer there are more men than in other months during the obligatory prayers. I often wonder why men in large numbers come to the mosques during Ramadan but not during the rest of the year. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory on all Muslims but prayer is obligatory five times a day throughout the year. So why is this tendency to attend congregational prayers during Ramadan and not in other months of the year! Most people know good acts during the month of Ramadan will get them extra rewards from Allah and this is probably the motivation for congregational prayers during Ramadan. So why are Muslims anxious to get extra rewards during the month of Ramadan only and not throughout the year? It may be because most men do not understand the significance of congregational prayers and unaware of the big rewards promised by Allah. This article attempts to clarify and show how many rewards we are missing by not attending congregational prayers. 

The source of guidance for Muslims is the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH). Since this life is a test for all, Allah tests us in many ways to see the degree of our devotion. Some will no doubt fail, some others will just pass while a smaller number will have high marks and the best in the hereafter. What determines this categorization is our effort in learning and implementing Islam in our lives and teaching, guiding and encouraging others towards the true path. It is therefore important that we learn as much as possible about our religion. We all know about the significance of the five daily obligatory prayers. Lets see what the Quran and Hadith say about the congregational prayers. 

 Importance of Congregational prayer from Quran: 

Surah Al-Nisa 102-103 provides guidance about congregational prayer in the face of an enemy i.e the congregation should be divided into two parties; one party prays while the other watches the enemy during war taking precaution to prevent a rush by the enemy. This shows the importance of congregational prayer. Even during war it must be performed though in this case it may be shortened and method modified according to circumstances.
Surah Al-Baqarah 43 “And be steadfast in prayer:Give zakat, and bow down your heads with those who bow down(in worship)”. The scholars believe the last part refers to congregational prayer as prayer itself is mentioned in the first part. 

 Importance of Congregational prayer from Hadith: 

The Prophet(PBUH) said: 

“Whoever said when he walks out of his home,  ‘In the name of Allah, I trust in Allah there is neither might nor any power except with Allah’ (this is the Prophets’s dua when leaving the house), He is told, ‘You are led to the right way, safeguarded and protected’, and Satan leaves him”.(Abu Dawood)
“Announce good news to those walking to the Mosques in darkness (for the morning and the night prayers) that they will have radiant light on the Day of Judgement”.(Abu Dawood)
“Whoever went to the Mosque in the morning or evening, Allah prepares for him a reward in the Paradise each time he walks to the Mosque”.(Al-Bukhari,Muslim)
“Whoever purified (made Wudu) himself in the house, and then walked to one of the Houses of Allah (Masjid) to perform an obligatory Salat, his footsteps act as one lowering a sin and the other raising a reward.” (Muslim)
So my Muslim brothers, think over the tremendous gains you would enjoy for attending a congregational prayer even before you reach the mosque.

·         Allah’s safeguard

·         Allah’s guidance

·         Protection from Shaytan

·         Radiant light on the Day of Judgment

·         Prominent place in Paradise

·         Pardon for sins with every step towards the mosque 

The rewards for congregational prayers are mentioned in several hadiths: 

The Prophet(PBUH) said:

“The Salat (prayer) in congregation is twenty-seven times superior in degrees to the Salat offered by a person alone”(Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
“He who observed the Isha prayer in congregation, it was as if he prayed up to the midnight, and he who prayed the morning prayer in congregation, it was as if he prayed the whole night”(Muslim)
“No Salat is more heavy(harder) for the hypocrites than the Fajr and the  Isha prayers, and if they knew the reward for these Salats at their respective times, they would certainly present themselves(in the mosques) even if they had to crawl”.(Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet’s (PBUH) displeasure with those not attending congregational prayer can be seen from this hadith:
“By Him in Whose Hand my soul is I intended or planned or was about to order for collecting firewood and then order someone to pronounce the Adhan for As-Salat and then order someone to lead the Salat then I would go from behind and burn the houses of men who did not present themselves for the (compulsory congregation) Salat (prayer).” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
A Muslim should earnestly strive for arriving before takbeer-e-tahrimah, so that he may not miss it. You will realize the extent of loss for those who miss the first takbeer when you read this hadith:
“Anyone amongst you who sat in a place of worship waiting for the prayer is in prayer, the angels invoke blessing upon him (in these words): O Allah, show him mercy, and pardon him! Accept his repentance and the angels continue this supplication for him so long as he does not do any harm in it, or as long and his ablution is not broken.”(Muslim)
The Prophet’s (PBUH) companion Ali(RAA) said: “The prayer of the neighbor of a masjid is in the masjid”. People asked who is the neighbor of a masjid. He said “Those who can hear the call of prayer(Adhan)”(Musnad Ahmed)
Most scholars have said that congregational prayer is neither obligatory nor optional, but Wajib (positive act) or Sunnah-i-Muwakkad. However, the above quotes from Quran and Hadith show the importance given to congregational prayers and the big rewards promised for those who make an effort and take the time out. We often consume a lot of our time and resources in the hope of gaining a small profit or favor in this world but we often fail to make the same effort for Allah when much bigger rewards have been guaranteed. Our aim should be to gain as many rewards as possible because we commit many sins daily(unintentionally in most cases) and such rewards from Allah will help wipe out some of the sins and lessen our burden on the day of judgement. The night and morning prayers are the most difficult but when you make a sincere effort, Allah will surely make it easier for you.

May Allah keep us steadfast in prayer and give us health and firmness of faith to always perform obligatory prayers in congregation as taught to us by Allah’s Prophet(PBUH). Ameen.

Note: Congregational prayer is not required of women as the preferred prayer location for them is at home. However, they should not be stopped from going to the mosque if they choose to go. In India and Pakistan most mosques do not have a separate area allocated for women and they are generally not allowed to enter mosques. This is against the teachings of Islam. In Tamil Nadu, it is reported that women are frustrated by not being allowed into mosques and are going to the other extreme of constructing a women only mosque.

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