I am an imam in a mosque in the city. Is it permissible for me to lengthen my rukuk (bowing in prayer) so that the makmum can join the prayer and get the rakaat?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
In congregational prayer, if a person managed to perform the rukuk together with the imam, then he gets the rakaat (considered as if he has performed the rakaat together with the imam) even if he is late to join the prayer until the imam is performing rukuk. Imam al-Khatib al-Syarbini Rahimahullah said: “If a person managed to perform the rukuk together with the imam and he is certain that the imam has not gotten up from the rukuk, then he gets the rakaat.” Refer al-Iqna’ fi Halli Alfaazi Abi Syuja’ (1/170). This is in accordance with a hadith:
إِذَا جِئْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلاةِ وَنَحْنُ سُجُودٌ فَاسْجُدُوا وَلَا تَعُدُّوهَا شَيْئًا وَمَنْ أَدْرَكَ الرَّكعَةَ فَقَدْ أَدْرَكَ الصَّلاةَ
“When you come to pray while we are prostrating ourselves, you must prostrate yourselves, and do not reckon it anything (rak’ah) he has been present at the prayer.
Sunan Abu Daud (893)
Syeikh Syamsul Haq al-‘Azim al-Abadi Rahimahullah commented on the above hadith saying: “Majority of salaf and khalaf scholars hold the opinion that whoever managed to perform the rukuk together with the imam, then the rakaat is considered without setting an obligatory condition he has to finish the recitation of al-Fatihah.” Refer Aun al-Ma’bud Syarh Sunan Abi Daud (3/108).
However, scholars have differing opinions regarding an imam waiting in rukuk to enable the makmum to get the rakaat. Their opinions are divided into two:
First opinion: Makruh (undesirable) for an imam to wait during rukuk to enable the makmum to join him. This is the opinion in madhhab Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam al-Auza’ie and qaul qadim in madhhab al-Syafi’e.
The exceptions are given if the imam is worried of a harm it would cause if he does not wait for the makmum, for example, an ignorant makmum would have thought that he gets the rakaat although he did not manage to perform the rukuk together with the imam. Thus, in this circumstance, it is permissible for the imam to wait for the makmum to join him during rukuk. Refer al-Syarh al-Kabir (1/323).
The act of waiting for a makmum in prayer is makruh because it would inconvenience other makmum in the congregation to wait too. Furthermore, the act of waiting is akin to an act of syirk in worship such as riya’ (pretension). The reason is, the imam has done something because of a creation and not because of Allah SWT. Refer al-Mughni (2/173), Nail al-Author (3/165).
Second opinion: Sunnah to wait for other congregation in rukuk but on several conditions. This is the opinion in madhhab al-Syafi’e and Imam Ahmad. Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (4/230), Tuhfah al-Muhtaj (2/259), Syarh Muntaha al-Iradat (1/267), al-Mughni (2/173-174).
Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah said: “The sahih opinion is it is sunnah for an imam to wait for other makmum while in rukuk on several conditions; the other congregation is already inside the mosque when the imam is waiting (in rukuk), does not wait for a long time and do it with the intention of getting closer to Allah SWT and not to win the heart of those joining the prayer and to differentiate him with others (for example, because of the congregation’s high status).” Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (4/230).
The evidence that supports this opinion is a hadith of the Prophet PBUH which was narrated by Anas bin Malik RA:
مَا صَلَّيْتُ وَرَاءَ إِمَامٍ قَطُّ أخَفَّ صَلَاةً، وَلَا أَتَمَّ مِنَ النَّبيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم، وَإِنْ كَانَ لَيَسْمَعُ بكاءَ الصَّبيِّ، فيُخَفِّفُ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ تُفْتَنَ أمُّهُ
“I never prayed behind any Imam a prayer lighter and more perfect than that behind the Prophet (ﷺ) and he used to cut short the prayer whenever he heard the cries of a child lest he should put the child's mother to trial.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (708) and Sahih Muslim (469)
This hadith showed that the Prophet PBUH changed the situation of prayer for the maslahah (benefit) of a certain individual, like a mother whose baby was crying which may distract her when hearing it. This situation is similar to the situation of an imam waiting a while to enable other congregation to join the prayer. Refer al-Syarh al-Mumti’ ‘ala Zad al-Mustaqni’ (4/198).
Another evidence for this argument is according to a hadith narrated from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri RA:
لقَدْ كَانَتْ صَلاةُ الظُّهْرِ تُقامُ فَيَذْهَبُ الذّاهِبُ إلى البَقِيعِ فَيَقْضِي حَاجَتَهُ, ثُمَّ يَتَوَضَّأُ, ثُمَّ يَأْتي ورَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عليه وسلَّمَ في الرَّكْعَةِ الأُولَى ممَّا يُطَوِّلُها
“The noon prayer would start and one would go to al-Baqi' and after having relieved himself he would perform ablution and then come, while the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) would be in the first rak'ah, because he would prolong it so much.”
Sahih Muslim (454)
Imam al-Syaukani Rahimahullah said: “The hadith is evidence for those who hold the opinion that it is sanctioned to lengthen the first rakaat to wait for congregation to join the prayer and attain the rewards of praying in a congregation.” Refer Nail al-Author (3/165).
Then, what about an imam who lengthens his last tasyahud to enable a late makmum to join the congregational prayer with the imam?
We cite the words of Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah to answer this issue: “(The second situation) …the sahih opinion is it is sunnah to wait for a makmum when the imam is in the last tasyahud with the same conditions (the other congregation is already inside the mosque when the imam is waiting (in rukuk), does not wait for a long time and do it with the intention of getting closer to Allah SWT and not to win the heart of those joining the prayer and to differentiate him with others (for example, because of the congregation’s high status).” Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (4/230)
In our opinion, it is sunnah for an imam to wait for a makmum who wants to join the congregational prayer, but on the conditions set by Imam al-Nawawi and detailed further by Syeikh Muhammad Nawawi al-Bantani Rahimahullah:
- Imam can only wait if he is in rukuk or last tasyahud.
- There is no concern that the time for prayer will end by the act of waiting.
- The makmum that the imam wishes to wait for is already present at the place of prayer.
- Waiting for the late makmum because of Allah and not for any other reasons.
- Do not wait for the late makmum for too long.
- Do not differentiate between the makmum that he waits for and other late makmums.
- Assume that the makmum that he waits for will join and follow his (imam) prayer.
- Assume that the makmum knows that the makmum will get the rakaat if the makmum managed to perform the rukuk with the imam.
- Assume that the makmum managed to perform the takbiratul ihram perfectly.
Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (4/230), Nihayah az-Zain fi Irsyad al-Mubtadi’in (pg. 132)
May Allah SWT give us goodness and the correct understanding in His commandments as well us give us the strength to practise it. Amin.