Starting prayer without waiting for official imaam
Fatwa No: 365740

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Question

Assalaam alaykum. In my local mosque, the official imam said to some elderly people that if he comes late and does not make it at the time when the Iqaamah should be done, we should wait five minutes for him (before proceeding to perform the prayer). The problem is that those elderly people (who also have some kind of authority in the mosque) do not usually wait five minutes, and they tell someone from among the worshippers to go forward and lead the prayer. This obviously goes against what the imam told us to do and is perhaps something done without his permission. Also, the imam is very weak in the sense that if the elderly people go against what he says, he cannot do anything about it. My question is: if this happens (i.e. when someone goes forward and leads the prayer without the imam’s permission and without waiting five minutes) and we pray behind this person, is our prayer valid? I read that some of the scholars held the view that if someone leads the prayer without the imam’s permission, the prayer is invalid. However, I also read in a fatwa of Ibn Baaz that if the imam is late for the appointed time for the prayer to begin, the people may proceed to establish the prayer. Nevertheless, our imam told us to wait for him for five minutes… Moreover, we are not able to advise the elderly people when they do this because they are not people who accept advice. Please advise us; may Allah reward you with good.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Our advice to you is to speak to these elders and clarify to them that they have to wait for the imaam for those minutes and remind them of the statements of the scholars about this. If they do not accept your advice, then ask the imaam not to be late and tell him that you are unable to wait for him and ask for his permission to authorize the Iqaamah of the prayer as soon as the time assigned between the azan and the Iqaamah has elapsed. If he gives permission, then there is no harm on you, and your prayer is valid according to the consensus of the scholars.

As for the validity of the prayer in the situation which you mentioned, then it is also valid according to the majority of the scholars, contrary to the adopted view of the Hanbali School, who state that the prayer is not valid in a mosque where there is an official imaam except with his permission, unless the time that is left for performing the prayer is short or the worshippers know that the imaam does not dislike that someone else leads the prayer.

Allah knows best.

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