Priority: A, Quality: b

Imam of Congregational Prayer

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Imām of congregational prayer or Imām al-jamā'a (Arabic: إمام الجَماعَة) is someone who leads a congregational prayer, that is, others follow him in saying the prayer. In fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), imam of the congregational prayer should meet conditions such as puberty, intellect, and justice.

In the selection of an imam for the congregational prayer, an Infallible Imam (a) is prior to anyone else, and in his absence, a regular imam, an imam appointed by a just ruler, the owner of the house, and sadat are, respectively, prior to others[1]. Recent jurists hold that a clergy is prior to others in leading the congregational prayer.

Conditions of the Imam of the Congregational Prayer

In the Shi'a jurisprudence, an imam of congregational prayer should meet certain conditions. The conditions are as follows:

  1. Puberty.[2]
  2. Intellect.[3]
  3. Justice.[4]
  4. Being a Twelver Shi'a.[5]
  5. Being a legitimate child.[6]
  6. Being a man (if all or some of the followers are men).[7] According to the majority of jurists, a woman can be an imam for women if she meets other conditions.[8]
  7. Being able to correctly recite the prayer (correct in Qira'a).[9][10]
  8. Being circumcised.[11]
  9. If the followers are standing, then the imam should be standing too.[12][13]

It is makruh (reprehensible) for the following people to lead congregational prayers:

  • A resident of the twon for a traveler and vice versa.[14]
  • A person on whom a religious hadd was executed after the tawba.[15]
  • A person who was excused from being circumcised.[16]
  • According to the majority of recent jurists, it is disliked for a Bedouin to lead a non-Bedouin.[17]
  • A person who says the prayer with tayammum for a person who says with wudu'.[18]
  • When people are not happy with someone as an imam, it is disliked for him to lead their prayers.[19]

Some scholars also believe that it is disliked for the following people to lead congregational prayers: a prisoner, a weaver, a tanner, a person with obstructed urine and feces, and a disabled person[20] for a non-disabled one.[21]

Rulings

There are rulings for the relationship between the imam and the followers as well as their prayers:

  • Imam's prayer is invalid if it turns out after the prayer that he lacked conditions such as tahara or righteousness or belief or that there was a problem in some Essentials of Prayer. But according to the majority of scholars, the followers' prayers are valid in such cases.[22]
  • If it turns out after the prayer that the imam did not meet other conditions such as maturity or sanity, then there is a disagreement among jurists as to whether the followers' prayers are valid.[23]
  • There is a disagreement among jurists over the validity of the followers' prayers if in the middle of the prayer they learn that the imam's prayer is invalid or he lacks certain conditions for imamate. According to some jurists, the followers should restart their prayers in this case,[24] but according to others, they can change their intention from the congregational prayer to the individual prayer and then go on their prayers.[25]
  • If the imam dies or passes out in the middle of the congregational prayer, then one of the followers who is qualified for imamate can lead the prayer.[26]
  • In cases of emergency, such as the invalidation of his wudu' or having nasal bleeding in the middle of the prayer, the imam can appoint another person in his place to finish the prayer.[27]

Order of Priority in Imamate

According to the Shiite jurisprudence, in the selection of an imam for congregational prayers, an Infallible Imam (a) is prior to anybody else.[28] In the absence of an Infallible Imam (a), it is recommended or preferable[29] that the following order of priority be observed:

  • A regular imam (a person who regularly leads the congregational prayer in a mosque or any other place).
  • An imam appointed by a just ruler.
  • An owner of a house is prior to others when a congregational prayer is said in his house.[30]
  • Sadat and Hashimites are prior to others of otherwise equal status.[31]

If two or more people dispute over leading the congregational prayer, then a person chosen by the followers is prior to others, and if the followers also disagree, then their individual superiorities or advantages are considered. There is a disagreement among jurists over such advantages and their order. According to the majority of scholars, a person who recites the prayer better is preferred to a person who knows jurisprudential rulings better, and the latter is preferred to advantages such as being prior in faith, being older, and being more handsome. If they are equal in all respects, then a lottery should be carried out, and the person whose name comes out of the lottery will be preferred.[32]

Recommended Actions

It is recommended for imam of congregational prayer to observe some practices, such as the following:

  1. Standing in the middle of the line.[33]
  2. Considering the least able followers in the actions of the prayer, unless they themselves want the prayer to be longer.[34]
  3. Reciting loudly enough for his voice to be heard by the followers.[35]
  4. Prolonging the ruku' twice the usual time in order for people to join the congregational prayer.[36]
  5. Not getting up from his place when the prayer is finished before the followers finish their prayer.[37]

Following a Non-Clergy Imam

Recent jurists maintain that being a clergy is a priority in the selection of an imam for congregational prayers. Below are some such views:

  • Imam Khomeini holds that a non-clergy can be followed in a congregational prayer only if no clergy is available.[38]
  • Ayatollah Safi Gulpayigani permits that even a clergy or a mujtahid follow a non-clergy or a non-mujtahid, but he recommends that a clergy be followed in mosques because it is more rewarding to follow a religious scholar, it has been a usual practice, and it involves other exigencies.
  • Ayatollah Khamenei recommends that if a clergy is available, then a non-clergy should not be followed in a congregational prayer.
  • Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi maintains that there is no problem to follow a non-clergy if a clergy is not available, and if a qualified clergy is available, then one should take precaution to give priority to the clergy.

See Also

Notes

  1. This is recommended or virtuous.
  2. According to the majority of scholars, a person who is at the threshold of maturity and can discern good and bad cannot be an imam of congregational prayer. See Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, 1404AH, vol. 13, p. 325.
  3. Shahīd al-Awwal, al-lumʿa al-Dimashqīyya, p. 48.
  4. A vice person or an unknown person whose righteousness is not known cannot be an imam of congregational prayer. See Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-wasila, 1379, vol. 1, p. 274.
  5. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 274.
  6. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 600.
  7. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 274.
  8. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 337.
  9. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 600.
  10. Thus, the following people cannot be imams of congregational prayers:
    • A person who does not know how to recite the prayer,
    • A person who is unable to speak except for other people like him or her,
    • A person who mispronounces a sound, for example, a person who pronounces the 's' sound as 'sh'. See Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, 1404AH, vol. 13, p. 334.
  11. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 31, p. 263.
  12. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 600.
  13. Thus, a person who says the prayer while sitting cannot be imam of people who say it while standing. See Khomeini, Tahrir al-wasila, 1379, vol. 1, p. 275, Yazdi, 'Urwat al-wuthqa, Markaz Fiqh al-A'immat al-Athar, vol. 1, p. 600.
  14. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 374.
  15. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 383.
  16. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 277.
  17. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 387.
  18. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 604.
  19. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 277.
  20. whether he is disabled cognitively, or bodily, or other individual aspects.
  21. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 390-391; Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 600.
  22. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 277; Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 14, p. 2.
  23. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 11, p. 9-10.
  24. See: Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 14, p. 11.
  25. Shahīd al-Awwal, al-lumʿa al-Dimashqīyya, p. 48; Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 598.
  26. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 368-369.
  27. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 368-369.
  28. Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fugahāʾ, vol. 4, p. 305.
  29. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasila, vol. 1, p. 277; Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 603.
  30. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 348.
  31. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 353.
  32. Najafi, Jawahir al-kalam, vol. 13, p. 357-366.
  33. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 605.
  34. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 605.
  35. Shahīd al-Awwal, al-lumʿa al-Dimashqīyya, p. 48.
  36. Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fugahāʾ, vol. 4, p. 328.
  37. Yazdī, al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā, vol. 1, p. 606.
  38. Khomeini, Istiftāʾāt, vol. 1, p. 294.

References

  • Ḥillī, Ḥasan b. Yūsuf al-. Tadhkirat al-fugahāʾ. Qom: Muʾassisa Āl al-Bayt, n.d.
  • Khomeini, Rūḥullāh. Taḥrīr al-wasila. Qom: Dār al-ʿIlm, 1379 Sh.
  • Khomeini, Rūḥullāh. Istiftāʾāt. Qom: Jāmiʿa-yi Mudarrisīn, 1372 Sh.
  • Najafi, Muḥammad Ḥasan al-. Jawahir al-kalam fī sharḥ sharāʾiʿ al-kalām. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1404 AH.
  • Shahīd al-Awwal, Muḥammad b. Makkī al-. Al-lumʿa al-Dimashqīyya fī fiqh al-imāmīyya. Edited by ʿAlī Asghar & Muḥammad Taqī Murwārīd. Beirut: Dār al-Turāth al-Islāmīyya, n.d.
  • Yazdī, Muḥammad Kāẓim al-. Al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā. Edited by Muḥammad Fāḍil Lankarānī. Qom: Markaz-i Fiqh-i Aʾimmat al-Aṭhār, n.d.