Obligation To Offer Salah In Congregation:

Question

Why does Mr Ghamidi apply the divine law related to the Messengers to the congregational prayers? He seems to hold that the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) directing the believers to compulsorily attend the prayers in congregation pertains to his time only and it is no more applicable afterwards? I mean what are the various intrinsic evidences within the narratives which point that the law should be applied?


Answer

In order to understand this issue, we need to consider the fact that narratives in this regard are of two types. Both are authentic yet apparently contradicting.

The first type of narratives gives the message that praying in the mosque is an obligation that must be fulfilled at all costs and there can be no reason for a person who hears the adhan to not come to the mosque. For example:

A blind person once asked relief from the Prophet (sws) in coming to the mosque, he was at first given the permission; and then the Prophet (sws) asked him: "Do you hear the voice of the adhān?" When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (sws) said that he would then have to come to the mosque. 1

The Prophet (sws) warned people: "I would like to burn the houses of those who do not come for the prayer, and would like to have them thrown over these people." 2

It is narrated by Ibn Mas'ūd (rta) that even the sick in those times would come to the congregational prayer by limping on the shoulders of two people. 3

The second category of narratives give the message that praying in the mosque is highly rewarding though it is not an obligation. Some of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) in this regard are the following:

The congregational prayer is twenty seven times more rewarding than the individual prayer. 4

If people knew how highly rewarding reaching the mosque at the time of the adhān is and standing in the first row is, and if for this they had to cast lots, they would have done this. And if they knew the reward of outdoing others for the zuhr prayer, they would have done so. And if they knew the reward for the fajr and 'ishā prayer they would have reached the mosque even if they had to drag themselves for this. 5

A person who prayed the 'ishā prayer in congregation is like a person who stood for worship till midnight and a person who prayed the fajr prayer in congregation is like a person who spent the whole night standing in worship. 6

Both these types of narratives, of course, oppose one another and cannot be true at the same time unless there is some other explanation to them.

A deliberation on the Qur'an shows that in the times of the Prophet (sws), there had come a time after the truth had been conclusively communicated to his addressees when true believers were separated and isolated from the Hypocrites and Disbelievers so that the final judgement of God could be pronounced on the latter two denominations. The first category of narratives seems to be an application of this directive of God: coming to mosque was a barometer in determining who was a true believer and who was not. Hence this was regarded as compulsory. However, after the departure of the Prophet, this was of course no longer required since the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers had reached its culmination.

In other words, what can be said is that while the first category of narratives relates to the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers, the second category gives a general picture.

Needless to say that all narratives must be related to their basis in the Qur'an and Sunnah or in the norms of sense and reason for narratives cannot give an independent directive of religion. They must be related to their basis in the original sources.

About the Author

Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Born in 1966 Shehzad Saleem has been under the tutelage of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi since 1988 and is currently a Research Fellow and one of the Vice Presidents of Al-Mawrid. He has a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from UET Lahore, Pakistan and holds a PhD in the History of the Qur’an from the University of Wales, UK.

Special Area of Interest
  He recently (2014) completed a fifteen year research work on the History of the Qur’an, a part of which constituted his doctoral thesis (the thesis portion is available at: http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/books/view/collection-of-the-quran-a-critical-and-historical-study-of-al-farahis-view).  The work addresses some nagging questions related to the revelation, collection and transmission of the Qur’an. These questions include narratives found in our legacy on the alleged incompleteness of the Qur’an, scribal errors found in it,  its variant readings, chronology of its compilation, order of the surahs, and manuscript studies.

Books Authored
  1. Common Misconceptions about Islam
  2. Playing God: Misreading a Divine Practice
  3. Islam and Women: Misconceptions and Misperceptions
  4. Essays on Character Building, Lessons on Character Building
  5. Qur’an Workshops on Character Building (including a separate Teacher’s Guide)
  6. Lessons on Character Building
  7. Selections from the Qur’an
  8. Selections from the Bible
  9. Selections from the Hadith

He has also compiled a modular textbook on Qur’anic Studies, which was taught by him to graduate students (1999-2001). The textbook is available in course format at
  www.studying-islam.org. It comprises course topics as: Revelation of the Qur’an, Theme of the Qur’an, History of the Qur’an, Arrangement of the Qur’an, Language of the Qur’an, Interpreting the Qur’an.

Translations
  He has translated some works of Amin Ahsan Islahi (d. 1997) and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi into English. These include:

1. Volumes 6, 7,  8 and 9 of Tadabbur Qur’an 
  2. Mizan (Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction)
  3. Al-Islam (Islam: A Concise Introduction)
  4. Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
  5. Volumes 1 and 5 of Al-Bayan 

QnAs
His answers to various questions received about Islam can also be accessed at the Renaissance website at: http://monthly-renaissance.com/issue/writers.aspx?option=queries&id=1

Websites
He is the Founding Editor of the monthly research journal, Renaissance which was initiated in 1991. In 1999, its website www.monthly-renaissance.com was launched.

He launched the Studying Islam www.studying-islam.org website in 2003, which offers online courses on Islam. Through technical help, he has developed an online software (Qur’an for All) at the Studying Islam website to teach the translation of the Qur’an to those who can read the Arabic text but cannot comprehend its meaning.

He also set up websites about the life and works of the Qur’anic scholars Hamid Uddin Farahi (www.hamid-uddin-farahi.org)  and Amin Ahsan Islahi (www.amin-ahsan-islahi.org)  in 2010 and 2013 respectively

He has also built a text based website on the exegesis Tadabbur i Qur’an (www.tadabbur-i-quran.org)  in 2013.

He also founded a website on the life and works of the biblical scholar Abdus Sattar Ghauri (www.abdus-sattar-ghauri.org)  in 2014

He uses his personal facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562019607)  to write on personality development issues.

Lectures
  He is a guest speaker at various public forums. Some of the topics he regularly speaks on include:

1. Misconceptions about Women in Islam
  2. Pardah and Gender Interaction
  3. Non-Muslims and the Qur’an
  4. Question on the Qur’an by Serious
  5. Misconceptions about Islam
  6. Muhammad (sws): The Misunderstood Prophet of Islam
  7. Marriage and Married Life
  8. Fast and Fasting
  9. Basic Morality
  10. Islam and Islamic Welfare State
  11. Misconceptions about Divorce in Islam
  12. Misconceptions regarding Jihad of the Companions of the Prophet (sws)
  13 Imbalanced Religious Attitudes

He conducts activity-based Qur’anic Workshops for adults and sessions on Character Building and Personality Development for teenagers. Topics include:

1. Spending in the Way of God 
  2. Pride and Arrogance
  3. Remembering God  
  4. Civic Sense
  5. Kindness to Parents
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness
  8. Moral Courage
  9. Truthfulness 
  10. Showing Off
  11. Humility
  12. Sympathy
  13. Sinful Speech 
  14. Honesty
  15. Justice

Some of his talks and lectures on or about Islam can be viewed at:
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleem         www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleem
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleemurdu, www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleemurdu

A facebook page, Dr Shehzad Saleem’s Video Talks (https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Shehzad-Saleems-Video-Talks-309627932402929/?ref=br_rs)  also displays his talks

Answered by this author