Is it obligatory to perform prayers in congregation (Jamaat)?

The Details of the Question
Is it obligatory to perform prayers in congregation (Jamaat)?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is not obligatory to perform prayers in congregation. However, Islam gives a lot of importance to perform prayers in congregation.

Islam gives a lot of importance to unity, solidarity and amity. Stimulating people to perform their daily prayers for five times a day in congregation; making it obligatory to perform Friday prayer once a weak and prayers of festival (eid) two times a year in congregation has a great deal of vital wisdom since it enables Muslims to meet and ask each other how they are doing and to help each other.

In this verse from the Qur’an : “When you (O Messenger) are among the believers (who are on an expedition and in fear that the unbelievers might harm them) and stand (to lead) the Prayer for them, let a party of them stand in Prayer with you and retain their arms with them (while the other party maintain their positions against the enemy).” (the Qur’an, an-Nisa, 4:102), performing the prayer in congregation even during jihad, in the most dangerous time and place. Stimulating to perform the prayer even while battling in the front is to emphasize the importance of the priority of performing the prayer in congregation at normal times.

To keep performing the prayer in congregation is sunnah muakkada (a strong sunnah that needs to be performed). It is at the same time the strongest sunnah of the Prophet. The Prophet always used to perform his prayers in congregation. Regarding the issue, the Prophet stated : to perform the prayer in congregation is twenty seven times more beneficial than to pray alone. (1). If believers knew the reward of performing the night and morning prayers in congregation, they would rush to the mosques crawling.(1,2).

Those who perform their night prayer in congregation are as if they have prayed for half of the night. And those who perform their morning prayer in congregation are as if they have prayed for all night long.(3).

One day, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), who was leading the morning prayer, saw that a person was absent and asked the people why he had not come. They said “that respectable person never sleeps at night and prays all night. He might possibly have fallen asleep and that must be why he did not come. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said “if that person had joined the congregation to pray and had slept all night, it would have been better for him.” (4)

The Prophet said : “ If Muslims knew the greatness of performing the prayer in the first line, they would cast lots to find a place in the first line and if they knew the reward of coming to the mosque early, they would compete each other to come first.(5)”

“Those who wake up and go to mosque to pray in the darkness of the night will be in a total enlightenment.”(6)

“If you see people who always go to mosque to pray, then bear witness for them that they deserve Paradise”(7)

To continue to pray in congregation results in upgrading our levels and forgiveness of our sins. As a matter of fact, the Prophet stated the importance of praying in the community saying : “ One of the good deeds that upgrade our levels and make our sins be forgiven is the steps taken to the mosque to pray.” (8)

“On the Day of Judgment, one of those who will rest in the shade are Muslims who set their hearts on mosques and who pray in congregation.” (9). In the verse above, the following is stated “ perform your prayers properly and give your alms and bow down your heads with those who bow down.”

Muslims’ gathering together for five times a day, their praying in tranquility and in peace and their bowing down and prostration to God Almighty is the best attitude and the most perfect way of worshipping. Muslim’s being together and performing neat lines is a cause for the acceptance of their prayers and the perfection of the spirits. The characteristic of the congregation and the order of the lines is a means of attaining Allah’s content and pleasure. Those who benefit the most from continuing to perform the prayer in congregation are those who come to the mosque from the farthest destination. (10).

Making it obligatory to perform Friday prayers and the prayers of festival in congregation emphasizes the goodness and importance of praying in congregation. Only obligatory (fard) parts of the prayers and prayers of Witr and Tarawih are performed in congregation. Other prayers are not performed in congregation. 

It is necessary to continue to pray in congregation and not to quit unless necessary. Unless there are legitimate excuses like old age, illness and unless weather conditions like severe cold, flood, storms, mud and rain prevents one, it is necessary to continue to pray in congregation. A dialog between the Prophet and a person who asked him what he should do to enter Paradise shows us the importance of this matter : The Prophet  replied :Lead the prayer. The man said, I cannot manage to do it. Then be a muezzin. I cannot do it. Then continue to pray in congregation. Try to be in the first line. We should try to perform our each prayer in congregation and sustain our unity and solidarity and treat each other respectively and display our unity everywhere. Thus, we could benefit from Allah’s mercy and abundance of praying. We should follow the path of the Prophet and Honored Companions.

1) Riyadu’s Salihin V.2, H.1058

2) ibid V.2, H.1076

3) ibid V.2, H. 1075

4) Letters by Imam Rabbani

5) Riyadu’s Salihin, V.2, H. 1037

6) ibid V.2, H.1061

7) ibid V.2, H.1054

8) ibid V.2, H.1063

9) ibid V.1, H.377

10) ibid V.2, H.1061

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