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The Sunnah of Fajr Controversy

Allaamah Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaibah (may Allah shower His mercy on him) has reported a
narration in his compilation of Ahaadith vol. 2, pg. 225 with the following words:
Haditha Ibn Mudhrab reports that Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud and Abu Musa
(radhy Allahu anhuma) left the (house of) Saeed Ibn Al-Aas (radhy Allahu anhu) while
salaah had already begun. So Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud (radhy Allahu anhu)
offered two rakaat sunnah then entered the congregation, while Sayyiduna Abu Musa
(radhy Allahu anhu) joined the congregation right away (without offering sunnah).
(Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah 2:251)
Wouldnt the environment be ever much more peaceful and Islamic if such tolerance for
differences of opinion was demonstrated today? Just look at the incredible sincerity and
tolerance the Salaf had for each others views; the same Salaf we all claim to follow today. This
is the real Islamic spirit that all of us should inculcate in our lives. May Allah Almighty grant us
all the ability to follow their footsteps.
The issue under discussion is: When a person enters a masjid and finds that the jamaah
(congregation) has already started, what should he do?
All Scholars are unanimous on the fact that in the case of Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Ishaa
prayers, one must join the congregation and refrain from offering any other optional prayer.
However, during the Fajr congregation, there is a difference of opinion which shall be briefly
outlined in the following lines.
There are two contradicting points of view concerning this issue, because of which it becomes
controversial.
1. The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) has strongly emphasized the two
sunnah before the Fajr prayer. That is why there is a consensus that the most
emphasized of all the sunnah prayers is the sunnah of Fajr. The following Ahadith
indicate this emphasis:
( ) :

The Messenger of Allah (salla Allah alaih wa sallam) said, Do not abandon the two rakaat of
Fajr even if horses were to trample over you. (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tahawi, Baihaqi)
. ) ( :

Aisha (rady Allah anha) said, The Messenger of Allah (salla Allah alaih wa sallam) was not more
particular about any of the optional prayers as much as he was about the two rak`aat before
Fajr. (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud)

( ) :
It is also related from Aisha (rady Allah anha) that the Messenger of Allah (salla Allah alaih wa
sallam said, The two rak`aat of Fajr are more beloved to me than the world and whatever it
contains. (Ahmad, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasai)
And there are many more Ahadith that emphasize the importance of the Sunnah of Fajr.
2. The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) has also emphasized joining the
congregation when it has already begun. The following hadith indicates this:
(( )) :
It is reported from Abu Hurayrah (rady Allah anh) from the Messenger of Allah (salla Allah alaihi
wa sallam) that he said, When the Salah begins, there is no prayer except the fard prayer.
(Muslim)
This Hadith indicates the Sunnah of Fajr must be omitted and one must join the Fajr
congregation.
Keeping these two points in view, lets look at the dilemma of a person who hasnt offered the
two sunnah rakaat of Fajr entering the masjid to find the congregation has started. If he joins
the congregation and leaves the sunnah prayer, he will be opposing those Ahaadith that
strongly emphasize the sunnah prayer before Fajr. And if he offers them, he will be opposing
the Hadith that prohibit offering any prayer during congregation.
In such contradicting cases, the Hanafi Scholars have always tried to adopt the course of
tawfeequr riwaayaat (an endeavour to make all Ahaadith applicable and practicable).
Therefore, they deduced that if such a person is fully content that he will be able to make it in
time to offer one rakah with the congregation, then he should offer the sunnah prayer outside
the masjid or if not possible then in a corner of the masjid, then join the congregation. If he
fears hell miss both rakaat then he should leave the sunnah prayer and join the congregation
and make up for the missed sunnah prayer after sunrise as many ahaadith prohibit optional
prayers after Fajr. The other opinion in the Hanafi School is that if he is content that he will be
able to make it to the congregation before the salam, he should offer the two rakaat Sunnah of
Fajr.
The practice of the Salaf regarding this has also been different. Some narrations supporting the
Hanafi point of view are given below:
1. Abdullaah Ibn Abi Musa reports that Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud (radhy Allahu anhu)
came while the Imaam had started leading the Fajr prayer. So he offered two sunnah
behind a pillar as he hadnt offered them. (as in Musannaf Abdur Razzaq 2:444)
2. Haditha Ibn Mudhrab reports that Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud and Abu Musa (radhy
Allahu anhuma) left the (house of) Saeed Ibn Al-Aas (radhy Allahu anhu) while salaah had

begun. So Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud (radhy Allahu anhu) offered two rakaat sunnah
then joined the congregation, while Sayyiduna Abu Musa (radhy Allahu anhu) joined the
congregation right away (without offering sunnah). (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah 2:251)
This teaches us all a lesson about how much tolerance the Salaf had for each others opinions.
Neither did Sayyyiduna Abdullah Ibn Masud (radhy Allahu anhu) criticize Sayyiduna Abu Musa
(radhy Allahu anhu) nor did the latter criticize the former. Wouldnt the environment be much
nicer if such tolerance were demonstrated today as well? May Allah Almighty guide us all.
Ameen
3. It is reported from Abu Darda (radhy Allahu anhu) that he used to say, Yes I swear by Allah,
if I were to enter the masjid and the salaah had begun, I would go behind one of the pillars
of the masjid and offer the two rakaat of sunnah and would hasten them, then I would join
the Fajr congregation. (Musannaf Abdur Razzaaq 2:443)
4. It is reported from Sayyiduna Abu Dardaa (radhy Allahu anhu) that he said, I enter the
masjid while the people are in the rows in Salatul-Fajr. So I offer two rakaat sunnah then
join the congregation. (Ibn Abi Shaibah 2:251)
5. It is reported from Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Umar (radhy Allahu anhuma) that he would
sometimes join the congregation and sometimes offer the sunnah prayer in the corner of
the masjid. (ibid)
6. Shabi reports from Masruq that he entered the masjid while the people were in SalatulFajr and he hadnt offered two rakaat sunnah of Fajr. So he offered them in a corner of the
masjid then joined the congregation. (Ibn Abi Shaibah 2:250, Abdur Razzaaq 2:444)
7. Sayyiduna Hasan Al-Basri says, If you enter the masjid while the imaam is in salah and you
havent offered the two sunnah rakaat of Fajr, offer them first, the join the imaam. (ibid)
8. Nafi (may Allah shower His mercy on him) reports that Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Umar
(radhy Allahu anhuma) entered the masjid and the people were in salaah and he hadnt yet
offered the sunnah of Fajr. So he joined the congregation, then when the sun rose he made
up for the two rakaat sunnah of Fajr. Nafi carries on saying that if Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn
Umar (radhy Allahu anhuma) happened to be on the way to the masjid and the prayer
started he would offer the sunnah prayer on the road. (ibid)
From the above narrations it becomes clear that the Hanafi point of view regarding the Sunnah
of Fajr is also based on evidence from Sunnah supported by the practice of eminent Sahaba like
Sayyiduna Abdullaah Ibn Masud, Abdullaah Ibn Umar, Abu Darda and the eminent Tabiee
Syyiduna Hasan Al-Basri (radhy Allahu anhum). Obviously, they were not ignorant about the
sayings of the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam). May Allah Almighty show us
the straight path. Ameen.

Mohamed-Umer Esmail
Imam Nueces Mosque
Nuecesmosque.imam@gmail.com
512-736-9532