Imam’s breaking wudu; istikhlaf. What should the congregation do if the wudu of the imam is invalidated while leading a fard prayer?

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Imam’s breaking wudu; istikhlaf. What should the congregation do if the wudu of the imam is invalidated while leading a fard prayer?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

If the wudu of the imam is invalidated while leading a fard prayer, the congregation does not break their prayer. The imam makes another person lead the prayer and the prayer is completed. However, if the imam does something that invalidates the prayer after his wudu is invalidated, the prayer has to be performed again.

While leading a prayer if the wudu of the imam is invalidated in ruku’ but he raises his head by saying, "Samiallahu liman hamidahu", or if his wudu is invalidated in sajdah and he raises his head by saying, "Allahu akbar", both his prayer and the prayer of the congregation will be broken. (al-Kafi / al-Marwazi)

If the wudu of the imam is invalidated in sajdah and he raises his head by saying, "Allahu akbar", his prayer will be broken. If he raises his head without uttering takbir, his prayer will not be broken; he chooses someone to complete the prayer. (Fatawa al-Hindiyya)

If a person breaks his wudu by sleeping and wakes up after a while, he makes wudu again and resumes his prayer. However, if he waits a bit after waking up, his prayer will be invalidated. He has to perform it again. (Mi'rajud-Diraya)

One of the conditions is not to do any deeds that are contrary to prayer.

In that case, if a person does something except walking and making wudu after his wudu is invalidated like speaking, laughing, eating or drinking, his prayer will be invalidated. He has to perform it again after making wudu.

If the awrah place of a person is opened while making wudu again after his wudu is invalidated in prayer, his prayer will be invalidated; he has to perform it again. (al-Badayi / Qasani)

However, if his awrah place is opened due to reasons beyond his control and if it is impossible to avoid it, his prayer will not be invalidated according to Qadi Abu Ali an-Nasafi; he can resume his prayer. (an-Nihaya – Fatawa al-Hindiyya)

The second meaning of the word "istikhlaf" in fiqh literature is expressed as the imam whose wudu is invalidated in prayer appointing somebody from congregationas the imam.

If the wudu of the imam breaks while he is leading the prayer, he can pull somebody from the congregation to the mihrab and appoint him as the imam acting as if his nose is bleeding, etc. When the prayer starts, somebody that has the necessary conditions of being an imam can lead the prayer. It is not permissible for a person who does not have the necessary conditions of being an imam to lead the prayer by replacing the imam.  

The imam whose wudu is invalidated needs to act carefully and choose a person who has been following him since the beginning of the prayer. A person who has joined the congregation after the first rak'ah and has not performed some part of the prayer is not chosen as the imam unless it is compulsory. If something like that happens, when the prayer is completed, the imam who has been appointed to replace the imam chooses a person who has performed the whole prayer to finish the prayer before saluting. When the new imam salutes, he stands up and completes his prayer.

If the person who has replaced the imam whose wudu has been invalidated does not exactly know which rak'ah of the prayer it is and needs to ask the imam about it, the imam tries to inform him through signs which rak'ah it is. If it is not possible and if the imam speaks, the prayer is invalidated and needs to be performed again.

If the imam whose wudu has been invalidated leaves the mosque or moves forward if the prayer is performed in an open area, the prayer is invalidated. However, if somebody from the congregation starts to lead the prayer before the imam who has not appointed anybody to replace him leaves the mosque, the prayer is valid and it does not have to performed again. If there is only one person except the imam, he moves to the place of the imam and completes the prayer.

If the imam misreads a verse in prayer and if he cannot correct this mistake though he returns twice, he will go to ruku’ if he thinks what he has read up to that time is enough; however, if it is not possible, he reads another verse; if he cannot do it either, he needs to appoint another person as the imam through istikhlaf.

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