How to Perform the Congregational Prayers

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Those who comply with the imam for the congregational prayer must make the intention for both the prayer and compliance with the imam. After the imam pronounces the opening takbîr, the congregation also performs the takbîr, and then recites Subhânaka. According to the Hanafis, the congregation does not recite Al-Fâtihah or any other verses of the Qur’ân with the imam. Followers of various Islamic schools should, therefore, take into consideration the difference of preferences regarding it. As the imam bows, those performing the prayer also bow down and recite “Subhâna Rabbiyal-‘Azîm” (“All- Glorious is my Lord, the Mighty”) (at least) three times. When the imam rises from the bowing position and says, “Sami‘allâhu liman hamidah,” those praying behind him silently say, “Rabbanâ lakal-hamd” (“Our Lord, to You is all praise”,) and then follow the imam to prostration and recite “Subhâna Rabbiyal- A‘lâ” (“All-Glorious is my Lord, the Most High”) (at least) three times. Only at-tahiyyât is recited in the first sitting of a three or four unit prayer, and in the last sitting at-tahiyyât, the two supplications of the Salât ‘alan Nabî (“Blessings for the Prophet”) and then the usual supplications recited during the last sitting. Finally, those praying bestow salâm (“greetings”) towards the right and the left together with the imam, thus completing prayer.

What should a latecomer do if the prayer has already begun?

First of all, the latecomer should not run or hasten to join the congregation but should walk with ease and dignity, and he should join the existing rows of congregation as he is not allowed to form a row alone if there is space available in the front. The rows need to be straight and compact so that the shoulders of those praying in congregation touch one another.

In order to reach the prayer in time, an individual must make the intention for prayer and perform the takbîr before the imam rises from the bowing position of the first unit of prayer, saying “Sami‘allâhu liman hamidah.” A person who makes the intention of complying with the imam who is still in the bowing position of the first unit of prayer has arrived in time for the first unit of prayer in time. If a latecomer joins the congregation before or in the bowing position of any unit of prayer, then it means he has completed that unit (rak’ah) of prayer.

Those who arrive late, and make the intention of complying with the imam in the second, third, or fourth units continue the congregational prayer as usual, but after the imam gives salâm at the end of the prayer, the person rises from the sitting position and, proclaiming “Allâhu akbar,” completes the missed units of prayer in order, beginning with the first unit.

Therefore, the latecomer who complies with the imam does not give salâm together with the imam but stands up to complete the missed units right after the imam gives the salâm. While he is in the standing position to perform the units of missed prayers, he must recite Al-Fâtihah (and the additional verses of the Qur’ân while performing the first two units of his missed prayer) as he would while praying alone. We should keep in mind that the unit in which the individual complied with the imam is classified as his first unit of prayer, and then the individual must continue the subsequent units accordingly. For example, a person who arrives during the last unit of the night prayer should make the intention of complying with the imam, pronounce the takbîr, and continue the prayer without reciting anything else. Then he must remain seated, recite at-tahiyyât in the sitting position, and then wait for the imam to give salâm. The individual must then stand without giving salâm and begin to perform the first unit of prayer that he missed. Reciting Subhânaka and Audhu-Basmala, then Al-Fâtihah and some more verses of the Qur’ân, the individual performs the bowing, prostrations, and recitation of at-tahiyyât in the sitting position. Then he stands up to perform the second unit of prayer that he missed. reciting Al-Fâtihah and other verses of the Qur’ân. Finally, he stands up to perform the third unit of prayer that he missed and recites only Al-Fâtihah, then performs the bowing, prostrations, and recitations of supplications in the final sitting position and gives salâm to the right and the left as usual.