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Assalamualaikum. I would like to ask the opinion of SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. Is the congregational prayer of imam and ma’mum of different Fiqh madhabs valid?



Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the 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.


Verily, pillars of Islam are strengthened due to the spirit of brotherhood among the Muslims. Also, in the spirit of togetherness in upholding the truth and preventing transgressions and falsehood. This can never be completed (acquaintanceship and brotherhood), unless through the full utilization of the role of the mosque as the place of gathering for Muslims to perform the five obligatory daily prayers.

Especially, in worldly matters where people may be divided and are jealous towards one another. So, these gatherings through congregational prayer will strengthen the bonds in their hearts from being torn apart as well as protecting them from hatred and animosity. A true mu’min (believer) is different from a munafiq (hypocrite); a mu’min will perform congregational prayers and strive to go to mosque regularly. (Refer: Fiqh al-Manhaji, 1/178).

Differences of Madhab

Indeed, Islam comes with peace and harmony while accepting differences. Differences among humans will always exist until the end of time as stated in Allah SWT’s saying:

وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ ﴿١١٧﴾ وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ۖ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ ﴿١١٨﴾

And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers (118) And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ (119)

Surah Hud (118-119)

Ibn Kathir in his tafsir (commentary) said: Differing opinions among humans in religious matters, faith, lifestyle, madhab and views will always happen. Ikrimah said, “Humans are different in accepting guidance and hidayah from Allah”. Al-Hassan al-Basri said, “Differences also happen in sustenance; some are rich and some are not.” The most accurate and popular opinion (of the interpretation of the verse) is the first one. (Refer: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 4/361)

Differences that exist in the established madhabs only involves minor matters related to branch issues. They do not include core issues like creed (aqeedah), tawheed and fundamental principles in Islam.

Differences between madhab arise from unavoidable reasons such as differences in interpretations upon particular dalil or their evaluation upon the status of a particular hadith and etc. This is normal, acknowledged in the religion and accepted by the ummah since the early days of Islam itself.

The Ruling of Congregational Prayer Where the Madhab for the Imam and Ma’mum is Different

We found that the companions of the Prophet PBUH and generations after them have performed congregational prayer together even though they hold different opinions in several branch issues among them. This attitude is also upheld by the founders of the madhabs themselves (imam).

Syeikh Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani, a contemporary scholar cited the story of the ethics of the imam in dealing with differences in his book Adab al-Ikhtilaf fi al-Islam: Differences of opinion between the imam never prevent them from performing prayer together (in congregation), like Imam Abu Hanifah and his followers, Imam al-Syafi’e as well as other imams. They all pray in congregation by following the imams of Medina who are in madhab Maliki, even though those from madhab Maliki do not recite basmallah either by sirr (soft recitation) or jahar (loud recitation).

He then said: Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal is of the opinion that when one is performing prayer, then his nose suddenly bleeds, then his prayer is nullified because it is among things that will invalidate wudhu’ (ablution) according to him. Different to this, Imam Malik bin Anas, in which through his students is the establishment of madhab Maliki, is of the opinion that nose bleeding does not invalidate wudhu’. However, when one of his students asks him what is the ruling of praying following the imam who does not retake his wudhu when the imam’s nose bleeds, Imam Ahmad answers: “Does it make sense if I refuse to pray following Imam Malik and Sa’id ibn Musayyib?”. (Refer: Adab al-Ikhtilaf fi al-Islam, pg. 118-119)

His answer clearly shows that differences of opinion between Imam Malik and him are not a barrier for him to still perform congregational prayer following Imam Malik or his followers.

This is recorded through in history of the previous Muslim generations, where all of them either from Mecca and Medina perform hajj, even though the imams of both holy city; Masjid al-Haram and Masjid al-Nabawi were once the companions and students of Imam Malik bin Anas who was from Maliki school of thought, and now, the imams of both lands are from Hanbali school of thought. However, these kinds of differences never prevented them from performing congregational prayer together even though there are differences in the ethics of prayer like the recitation of basmalah and qunut among these four madhabs.

Differences between the madhab should not be the barrier for us as Muslims from uniting in worshipping Allah SWT.

Ibn Qudamah said: Hence, those who differ in branch issues like Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam al-Syafi’e, following them for prayer is valid and not makruh (undesirable). Imam Ahmad cited that the companions of the Prophet PBUH, the tabi’in and generations after them continue to pray following one another consistently even though they have differing opinions in branch issues. This indirectly indicates that they have ijma’ (scholarly consensus) on this matter. (Refer: al-Mughni, 2/141)

Syeikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyah was once asked: Is the prayer of a makmum valid if he followed an imam of a different madhab than him? He then answered: “The prayer of a man behind a person of different madhab from him is valid according to the consensus of the companions of the Prophet PBUH, tabi’in and the imam of the four madhabs.” (See Majmu’ al-Fatawa, 23/378)

Hence, it is okay to pray following an imam from a different madhab. This is supported by a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِهِ، فَإِذَا كَبَّرَ فَكَبِّرُوا، وَإِذَا رَكَعَ فَارْكَعُوا، وَإِذَا قَالَ: سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ، فَقُولُوا: رَبَّنَا وَلَكَ الحَمْدُ، وَإِذَا سَجَدَ فَاسْجُدُوا، وَإِذَا صَلَّى جَالِسًا فَصَلُّوا جُلُوسًا أَجْمَعُونَ

"The Imam is to be followed. Say the Takbir when he says it; bow if he bows; if he says 'Sami`a l-lahu liman hamidah', say, ' Rabbana wa laka l-hamd', prostrate if he prostrates and pray sitting altogether if he prays sitting."

Sahih al-Bukhari (734) and Muslim (414)

Imam al-Nawawi stated in his commentary, “This hadith shows that it is obligatory (wajib) for a ma’mum to follow the imam in takbir, standing, sitting, ruku’ and prostrating.” (Refer: Syarh al-Nawawi 'ala Sahih Muslim, 4/132)

Narrated by Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari RA where the Prophet PBUH said:

يَؤُمُّ الْقَوْمَ أَقْرَؤُهُمْ لِكِتَابِ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ كَانُوا فِي الْقِرَاءَةِ سَوَاءً فَأَعْلَمُهُمْ بِالسُّنَّةِ فَإِنْ كَانُوا فِي السُّنَّةِ سَوَاءً فَأَقْدَمُهُمْ هِجْرَةً فَإِنْ كَانُوا فِي الْهِجْرَةِ سَوَاءً فَأَقْدَمُهُمْ سِلْمًا

The one who is most versed in Allah's Book should act as Imam for the people, but If they are equally versed in reciting it, then the one who has most knowledge regarding Sunnah if they are equal regarding the Sunnah, then the earliest one to emigrate; it they emigrated at the same time, then the earliest one to embrace Islam.

Sahih Muslim (673)

Imam al-Nawawi upon commenting on this hadith said:

Verily, the most God-fearing individual is prioritized over those with knowledge of Fiqh and the Quran. This is because, the purpose of being an imam will be fulfilled by the God-fearing compared to others.” (Refer: Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 5/173).

This hadith shows that an imam is not followed for he is from the same madhab, but following the criterions set such as being God-fearing person, the most versed in al-Quran, the most learned in Fiqh and etc.

We are forbidden from performing any actions of prayer differently from the imam merely because differences in madhab between the imam and ma’mum. This is due to the clear commandment from the Prophet PBUH who forbade the ma’mum to act differently than the imam whom they are following.

The Prophet PBUH not only forbade from being different from the imam through actions, but also preceding the imam as well as stated in the hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:

أَمَا يَخْشَى أَحَدُكُمْ ـ أَوْ لاَ يَخْشَى أَحَدُكُمْ ـ إِذَا رَفَعَ رَأْسَهُ قَبْلَ الإِمَامِ أَنْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ رَأْسَهُ رَأْسَ حِمَارٍ أَوْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ صُورَتَهُ صُورَةَ حِمَارٍ

"Isn't he who raises his head before the Imam afraid that Allah may transform his head into that of a donkey or his figure (face) into that of a donkey?"

Sahih al-Bukhari (691) Sahih Muslim (427)

Imam al-Nawawi said in his commentary, “This comparison (which is mentioned in the hadith) shows that this action (preceding the imam) is haram (prohibited).” (Refer: Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 4/151)

In madhab al-Syafi’e itself, among the requisites of following the imam in prayer is, the ma’mum cannot believe that the prayer of the imam is invalid. Dr. Muhammad al-Zuhaili stated in his book, “If a person of madhab Syafi’e follows an imam of madhab Hanafi who takes ablution and pray according to his own madhab, and those with madhab Syafi’e think that the prayer of the imam who is in madhab Hanafi is invalid, then his act of following the imam is abrogated. Consideration is through the thought of the ma’mum upon the validity of the imam’s prayer. Practically, a ma’mum should believe that the imam’s prayer is still valid although they are different in branch issues and on matters of ijtihadiyyah, as well as through his good assumption.” (Refer: al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi’e, 1/414)

Pertaining to qunut, Imam Syams al-Din al-Ramli explained this issue in his book: “If a person of madhab Syafi’e follows an imam of madhab Hanafi for Subuh prayer, if he recites qunut and has time to prostrate together with the imam on the first prostration, then he may do so. If not, then he cannot recite the qunut and is obliged to perform sahwi prostration after the imam gives salam according to the final opinion with the assumption that the imam forgets. It is different when the ma’mum tells the imam that his follows the opinion of reciting qunut, but the imam still does not recite the qunut, then sahwi prostration is not be obliged because the qunut is not abandoned due to being forgetful. This means that the ma’mum is not obliged with sahwi prostration as the imam himself leaves the qunut and he did request it from the imam, in fact, it is forbidden for him to prostrate.” (Refer: Nihayah al-Muhtaj ila Syarh al-Minhaj, 2/68).

While Imam al-Nawawi said: “If a person of madhab Syafi’e follows an imam of madhab Hanafi, and the imam waits for a while after standing from ruku’ so that the ma’mum has time to recite qunut, then he is permissible to do so. If not, then he should follow the imam to prostrate, and is obliged with sahwi prostration if we consider it the stand of the ma’mum. If we consider it the stand of the imam, then it is impermissible. If a person of madhab Hanafi prays following the imam of madhab Syafi’e for Subuh prayer, then the imam leaves the qunut due to being forgetful, then he performs sahwi prostration, so the ma’mum should follow him. If he leaves the sahwi prostration, he should perform it, if we consider it the stand of the imam. If not, then he is not obliged with the prostration.” (Refer: Raudhah al-Talibin wa 'Umdah al-Muftin,1/348)

Syeikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah in concluding this issue said in al-Fatawa al-Kubra: “The ma’mum should follow the ijtihad of the imam. So, when the imam recites qunut, the ma’mum should do so and vice versa. Verily, the Prophet PBUH said: ‘The Imam is to be followed’”. (Refer: Fatawa al-Kubra, 2/252)

Hence, when a ma’mum follows an imam of different madhab, he should follow the imam while having good perception and is sure of the validity of the imam’s prayer as well as following the ethics of the imam. This is the fundamental teachings portrayed by the imams of the four madhabs and fits the purpose and objectives of congregational prayer itself perfectly.


To close, according to the judgements and discussions presented, we would like to conclude that it is valid for someone to perform congregational prayer where the imam and ma’mum are of different madhabs on the condition that ma’mum believe that the prayer of the imam is valid. The reason is, the differences are only in branch issues not the main matters. Besides, openness and tolerance among Muslims as long as the opinions are acknowledged by any established madhabs, then it is not a problem to pray with one another. Differences in madhab is actually a blessing for us all as Muslims in solving many issues especially in Fiqh. Wallahua’lam.

Lastly, we pray that Allah SWT bless us with the correct understanding in this religion. Ameen.