Praise be to Allaah.
Hastening to join the congregation and coming early to the
mosque are virtuous deeds which many people neglect and fall short in. When
the believer tastes the sweetness of faith and feels delight in worship, he
can hardly wait to hear the call to prayer and go to the mosque. Indeed you
will see him hastening and rushing, and the time for prayer does not begin
without him longing for it. The Prophet’s description applies to him, as one
of the seven whom Allaah will shade with His shade on the Day when there is
no shade but His: he is the man whose heart is attached to the mosque.
Undoubtedly coming early to congregational prayers and being
keen to be one of the first ones there is a sign of respect and eagerness
for this ritual, and it is also indicative of a person’s righteousness,
religious commitment and piety. Sufyaan al-Thawri said: Your coming to the
prayer before the iqaamah is a sign of respect for the prayer. End quote.
Fath al-Baari (3/533).
Ibraaheem al-Taymi said: If you see a man being careless
about the first takbeer, then wash your hands of him. End quote.
Siyar A’laam al-Nubala’ (5/84).
Wakee’ ibn al-Jarraah used to say: Whoever does not catch up
with the first takbeer, do not hope for any good from him. End quote.
Narrated by al-Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Eemaan (3/74).
Some of the salaf regarded coming to the mosque after the
adhaan as a shortcoming, and that it was better to go to the mosque before
the call to prayer.
Sufyaan ibn ‘Uyaynah said:
Do not be like the bad slave who does not come until he is
called. Come to prayer before the call is given. End quote.
Al-Tabsirah by Ibn al-Jawzi
We will remind ourselves and you of some of the virtues of
coming early for prayer in congregation and hastening to do that.
Ibn al-Mundhir narrated – as reported in al-Durr
al-Manthoor (2/314) – from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with
him) about the meaning of the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord”
[al-Hadeed 57:21], that it refers to the first takbeer. This was
narrated by some of the mufassireen from Mak-hool and Sa’eed ibn Jubayr
among the Taabi’een.
‘Abd al-Razzaaq narrated in al-Musannaf (1/528) via a
saheeh isnaad from Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he said:
Whoever does not miss the first rak’ah of prayer for forty days, he will be
saved from two things: he will be saved from the fire and will be saved from
And it was narrated that Meetham, one of the companions of
the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said: I heard that the angel comes with his banner accompanying the first
one who comes to the mosque, and he stays with him until he goes back, and
he enters his home with him, carrying the banner.
Narrated by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim in al-Ahaad wa’l-Mathaani
(5/183); classed as saheeh by Ibn Hajar in al-Isaabah (6/148) and by
al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb (1/242).
By coming early for prayer in congregation you will earn the
reward of waiting for the prayer and of staying in the mosque, and the
du’aa’ of the angels. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated
that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“When he enters the mosque, he is in a state of prayer so long as the prayer
is what is keeping him there, and the angels send blessings on any one of
you so long as he remains in the place where he prayed, saying, ‘O Allaah,
forgive him, O Allaah, have mercy on him…’” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (477)
and Muslim (649).
It also brings the virtue of praying in the first row, and of
saying Ameen with the imam. It says in the saheeh hadeeth: “When the imam
says ‘Ameen’ then say ‘Ameen,’ for if a person’s saying Ameen coincides with
that of the angels, his previous sins will be forgiven.” Narrated by
al-Bukhaari (780) and Muslim (410).
The one who comes early to pray in congregation can also make
good use of the time between the adhaan and iqaamah by offering regular
Sunnah prayers or praying tahiyat al-masjid (two rak’ahs to greet the
mosque), and he can spend the time in saying du’aa’ and seeking the good of
this world and the Hereafter, because the time between the adhaan and the
iqaaamah is one of the times when du’aa’s are answered.
In the practice of the salaf there are examples which stir
the heart and make one resolute, and call everyone who is negligent or
falling short to feel shy before the Lord of the Worlds, as righteous people
are competing to attain reward whilst he is negligent about reward.
Ibn Shaheen narrated in his book al-Targheeb fi Fadaa’il
al-A’maal wa Thawaab dhaalika (no. 107) from al-Hasan that Anas (may
Allaah be pleased with him) said:
The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him), including Hudhayfah, gathered together and a man said:
I would not like to miss the first takbeer with the imam even if I were to
have fifty sheep. Another man said: I would not like to miss (the first
takbeer) with the imam even if I were to have one hundred sheep. Another man
said: I would not like to miss (the first takbeer) with the imam even if I
were to have everything on which the sun rises. Another man said: I would
not like to miss (the first takbeer) with the imam even if I prayed from
‘Isha’ until Fajr.
It was narrated from Abu Harmalah that Ibn al-Musayyab said:
I have not missed the first takbeer for fifty years, and I have not looked
at a man’s back whilst praying for fifty years. End quote. Al-Siyar
(4/30), i.e., he used to pray in the front row.
There is the fear for the one who is always late in coming to
pray in congregation and who neglects the virtue of the first takbeer that
Allaah may delay reward, virtue and goodness for him, until he is content to
come late, so his reward will be akin to his action.
Some of the scholars said, commenting on the words of the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “Come forward and
follow me (in the prayer), and let those who are behind you follow you, for
people will keep moving to the back until Allaah puts them back (away from
His mercy or Paradise)” (narrated by Muslim, 438), that what is meant is the
one who keeps away from the first row and the first takbeer.
See also the answer to question no.
I think that from the above you can understand the mistake
that you are making by deliberately coming late to prayers in congregation,
and that the fear which is making you do that is something that comes from
the shaytaan, who wants to deprive you of reward and virtue.
We understand that the position of imam is a position that
may make one nervous, but that should not make you fall short with regard to
it. If you go to the mosque and you are the most qualified to lead the
people in prayer, then you should go forward and not hold back, because the
sin will be on you if the people appoint someone who does not recite
al-Faatihah properly or does not do all the pillars or essential parts of
the prayer properly.
We assure you that the fear which you feel when leading the
prayer is a temporary fear which will soon go away when you get used to
leading the prayers. You have to put up with the hardship at the beginning,
then Allaah will open the door to goodness for you as a reward for your
patience and forbearance.
You can seek help to reduce the fear that you feel, by trying
to do the following things:
1 – Review thoroughly the verses that you want to recite in
prayer, because this will make you more confident and that will dispel the
fear and nervousness.
2 – Get used to reciting the prayers in a loud voice at home,
by praying qiyaam and the naafil prayers at night. This will get you used to
acting as an imam and reciting out loud.
3 – Lead people in praying the prayers in which Qur’aan is
recited silently, because getting used to standing in the imam’s place will
reduce the fear of standing before the people in the prayers in which
Qur’aan is recited out loud.
4 – Try to convince yourself that this matter is easy, and
how some of the children of the Sahaabah used to lead the people in their
local mosques, and all that is required is a simple recitation, proper
focus, peace of mind and submission before Allaah the Lord of the Worlds.
5 – Do not forget to ask Allaah to help you to do good, and
to make it easy to do righteous deeds.
We ask Allaah to help us and you and to grant us the victory
of attaining eternal bliss.
And Allaah knows best.