Is it appropriate to delay a prayer so that the congregation will catch up with it?

The Details of the Question

Is it necessary to perform the evening prayer as soon as adhan is called? Is it contrary to the manners of prayer to wait for the people who are making wudu for the prayer in congregation?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Jabir b. Samura narrates; "After calling adhan, Bilal would wait for the Prophet to come. When he saw the Prophet (pbuh) come out of his house, he would start iqamah.” (Muslim, Masajid 160; Abu Dawud, Salah, 43; Tirmidhi, Salah 29) 

According to this hadith narration, muezzin has to wait for the imam before calling iqamah if there is enough time.

A hadith reported by Abu Dawud and Bayhaqi is as follows:

"After adhan is called, the Prophet (pbuh) would leave his house and go to the mosque. When he saw that the number of the congregation was not enough, he would sit in the mosque and wait until people arrived.” (Abu Dawud, Salah, 45; Bayhaqi, as-Sunanul-Kubra, h. no: 2283)

There is no difference between the two narrations. For, the Prophet sometimes started prayer when he arrived and he sometimes waited.

This hadith is regarded as evidence that it is legitimate to wait for a while after adhan before calling iqamah. If they do not wait, some people, especially those who live away from the mosque, will be deprived of the thawab of congregation. If iqamah is delayed a bit, it will be possible to help some Muslims to catch the congregation; this means helping one another in good deeds and taqwa.  

However, it is also necessary to take into consideration the state of the excused and old people in the mosque while waiting for the congregation. In addition, it is necessary not to wait too much when the time is limited like the evening prayer. 

To sum up:

- It is not contrary to the manners of prayer to wait for the people who are making wudu for the prayer in congregation. For, it is permissible for the imam to wait for the congregation to increase and to catch up with the imam.

- The imam should not delay starting the prayer when the congregation has increased. This issue is important particularly in the mosques near the bazaars and markets, and similar mosques.

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