Friday: Praying sunnas upon entering after the khutba starts

Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif

Question: If we enter the masjid on Friday and the khutbah has already started, should we pray two rakat tahiyatul masjid or not? Please explain in the light of the hadith in which the Prophet (saws) asked a sahabi to get up and pray while he (saws) was delivering the khutbah.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assaalamu alaykum

In the name of Allah Most Gracious and Merciful.

May the peace and blessings of Allah be on our master Muhammad, his folk and companions and all who step in his blessed footsteps until the last day.

Both the Hanbali and Shafi’i schools state that it is recommended for a latecomer to the Friday prayer to pray the 2 rakats for greeting the mosque even if the Imam is giving the khutba (Friday sermon). The Hanafi and Maliki schools however consider this to be an impermissible act.

The former two schools take as a basis for this ruling the hadith of Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah found in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘When of you comes on Friday and the imam has come out [to give the khutba] then let him pray two rakats’. In addition there is the hadith also related by Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah that is found in sahih al-Bukhari that ‘A man came whilst the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was delivering the khutba on Friday so he said “Have you prayed O so-and-so?”. The man replied “No”. The Prophet said “Stand and pray two rakats”.

Despite the seemingly clear indication of the two aforementioned rigorously authenticated hadiths, the Hanafis and Malikis deemed it impermissible to pray during the khutba. They based this ruling on a number of considerations some of which are mentioned below. The followed discussion is largely taken from the two great commentaries on Sahih al-Bukhari; Faid al-Bari by Imam al-Kashmiri [2:238, Maktaba Haqqania] and ‘Umdat al-Qari by Imam al-‘Ayni [6:230, Bulaq].

Despite the above two hadiths, it is transmitted from the majority of the early Muslims from the Sahaba, including Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the Tabi’in that they did not deem it permissible to pray during the khutba. This was mentioned by Imam al-Nawawi in his commentary on Sahih Muslim quoting Qadi Iyad from his own commentary on Sahih Muslim, whilst Imam al-Nawawi only named ‘al-Hasan al-Basri and others’ from the early Muslims as following the Shafi’i opinion. [al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, 6: 400. Dar al-Ma’rifa] In addition, not praying during the khutba was the practice of the people of Madina [‘amal ahl al-Madina] which is a mutawatir practical transmission from the Sahaba to the Tabi’in of Madina to the Tabi’ al-Tabi’in upon which Imam Malik based his school.

The fact that the majority of the early community where not applying what is indicated by these hadiths does not mean that they were somehow going against the prophetic guidance. Rather it indicates that they understood from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that one was not to pray in that time, based on sayings of the Prophet and other considerations not all of which have necessarily been transmitted to us. This is why the practice of the early community is seen as a source of law in itself as their practice was a practical transmission of knowledge, just as their teaching hadiths was an oral transmission of knowledge.

It is agreed upon that speaking is not allowed during the khutba. Among the evidences for this is Allah most high’s saying ‘When the Qur’an is recited to you then be silent and listen attentively that haply you may be shown mercy’ [7:205].

Imam al-Sawi mentions in his supercommentary on the tafsir al-Jalalayn that the Qur’anic exegetes mention four possible reasons for this verse being revealed [asbab nuzul]. Firstly that it was revealed concerning the khutba. This is the preferred opinion according to Jalaladdin al-Suyuti in the tafsir al-Jalalayn, explaining that the khutba was referred to as ‘Qur’an’ because that is what much of it comprises of. Secondly that it is a general command referring to whenever the Qur’an is recited. Thirdly, that it was revealed to stop people from speaking to each other when praying behind an imam as they used to do before speaking during the prayer was forbidden. Fourthly, that it was revealed concerning reciting the Qur’an aloud when one is praying behind the imam. [Hashiya al-Sawi ‘Ala al-Jalalayn, 2:311, Dar li Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi]. Imam al-Nasafi mentions in his tafsir that the most correct opinion is that it was revealed concerning both reciting behind the imam and speaking during the Friday khutba. [Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqa’iq al-ta’wil, 1:628, Dar ibn Kathir]

Among the hadiths that enjoin one to silence during the khutba is the rigorously authenticated hadith from the Prophet that he said ‘If you say to the person next to you ‘Be quiet’ on Friday during the sermon then you have committed a blameworthy and rejected act (laghw)’. [Muslim]. And he also said (Allah bless him and give him peace) ‘Whoever performs the ablution and perfects his ablution then comes to the Friday prayer and listens attentively and remains silent he will be forgiven for everything between it and the other Friday with an additional three days and whoever touches pebbles has committed something rejected and blameworthy (laghw)’. [Muslim] This hadith indicates that in addition to speaking, even unnecessarily fidgeting during the khutba is impermissible as in the prayer.

The Maliki Qadi, Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, mentions in his commentary on the Jami’ of Tirmidhi that if even forbidding the evil, an otherwise obligatory act, is forbidden during the khutba, as indicated by the hadith forbidding one from saying ‘be quiet’ to another person as it prevents one from ‘listening attentively’ to the khutba, then it is a fortiori that praying the two rakats of greeting the mosque should be forbidden during the khutba as firstly it is not obligatory and secondly it takes longer and so interferes even more with the obligation of listening attentively. He also adds that it is established that if the imam has started in the obligatory prayer, a latecomer is not permitted to busy himself with praying any other sunna but must join the imam, then so too the khutba, which has the ruling of a prayer in that it takes the place of two rakats of Dhuhr and one cannot talk or fidget during it. [as quoted in Umdat al-Qari]

There are hadiths and statements from the early Muslims that clearly indicate the contrary. These include the hadith in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad that, ‘The Muslim when he performs the purificatory bath for Friday then comes to the mosque without harming anyone, if he does not find that the imam has come out [for the khutba] he prays as much as he likes and if he finds that the imam has come out, he sits, listens attentively and remains silent until the imam completes his Friday [prayer].’ Al-Haythami mentions in Majma’ al-Zawa’id that this hadith has a reliable chain of narrators. Furthermore, Al-Tabarani relates in his Mu’jam from ‘Abdullah ibn Umar that he said ‘I heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say “When one of you enters the mosque and the imam is on the pulpit then there is no speech or prayer until the imam finishes”’. The chain of transmission of this particular hadith is deemed week but it has exterior considerations that strengthen it [qara’in]. Among them is that it corresponds to what ibn Abi Shayba transmits concerning ibn Umars opinion pertaining to praying during the khutba and also what was transmitted by Nawawi, as mentioned above, that it is the opinion of the majority of the Sahaba and the Tabi’in. It is a legal principle that a week hadith if it is supported by being practiced by the early community it is strengthened such that it is possible to use it to prove a case.

The incident of the man that was told to get up and pray two rakats appears to apply specifically to that particular person. They deduced this for a number of reasons:

4.1 The other versions (riwayas) of the hadith give further information of the incident not provided in the version related by Bukhari.

i. Other versions indicate that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) refrained from continuing with the khutba until he had finished praying. Daruqutni mentions this incident in his sunan from Anas ibn Malik that ‘a man entered the mosque and the Messenger of Allah was delivering the khutba, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to him “Stand and pray two rakats” and withheld from continuing with the khutba until he had finished praying’, and so the man was not guilty of praying during the khutba.

ii. Some versions seem to indicate that the khutba had not yet begun. Al-Nasa’i mentions this hadith under the heading ‘chapter concerning the prayer before the khutba’ from Jabir that ‘Sulaik al-Ghatafani (the man in question) came whilst the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was seated on the pulpit and Sulaik sat down before praying so the Prophet said to him “Did you pray two rakats?”, he said, “No.” The Prophet said “Stand and pray them”’. A version mentioned in Muslim’s Sahih indicates the same meaning.

iii. Other versions mention that he was a very poor man and did not have decent clothes to wear to the Friday prayer, and in some versions he had hardly any clothing, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told him to stand and pray so that everybody could see his poverty and give him some charity. Versions to this effect are mentioned in the Musnad and by Ibn Hibban in his sahih, Imam al-Tahawi and Al-Nasa’i in his sunan who mentioned this version under the heading ‘urging to charity’ seeing as it was the key lesson to be gained from the incident. Of these hadiths is the one mentioned by Al-Nasa’i from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that ‘a shabbily dressed man came on Friday and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was giving the khutba so the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to him ‘Have you prayed?’ He said ‘No.’ [The Prophet] said ‘Pray two rak’ats’. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) then urged people to give charity [during the khutba]. They gave the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) a number of items of clothing of which two were given to the man…’[to the end of the hadith]

The various versions might seem contradictory as some indicate that the khutba had started, was paused for the man to finish praying and then continued, whilst others indicate that it had not yet started. Badr al-‘Alam al-Mirtahi in al-Badr al-Sari a supercommentary on Faid al-Bari mentions that what must have happened, joining between the various versions, is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was seated on the pulpit about to deliver the khutba when the man walked in. Upon seeing his poverty stricken state he withheld from starting the khutba and told the man to pray so that everybody present would see him. He (Allah bless him and give him peace) waited for the man to finish and then started with the khutba in which he urged people to give in charity resulting in the man being given some items of clothing. As for the hadiths that mention that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was delivering the khutba when the man came, the reporters of those hadiths must have meant that he was in the act of delivering the khutba in that he was on the pulpit and was just about to start, and this is a figurative usage of the verb ‘he is delivering the khutba’ [yakhtubu] that the Arabic verb can be used to indicate. [al-Badr al-Sari ila Faid al-Bari, 2:341, Maktaba Haqqania]

4.2 There are many hadiths that make mention of people coming late to the Friday prayer without any indication that they prayed two rakats to greet the mosque or were told to do so. These hadiths include the following:

i. Imam al-Bukhari relates on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar that ‘While Umar ibn al-Khattab was standing delivering the khutba on Friday a man from the first of the Emigrants from the companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came in. So Umar called to him “What hour is this?” He said “I was busied so I did not return to my family until I heard the call to prayer so I did not do more than performing the ablution (wudu)” [Umar] said “And ablution as well? And you know that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to enjoin performing the purificatory bath (ghusl).”

Here after being rebuked for not performing the ghusl there is no mention in this or any other version of this hadith that the late comer offered two rakats to greet the mosque nor was told to do so. Other versions of the hadith mention the late comer to be Uthman ibn Affan (Allah be pleased with him).

ii. Imam al-Bukhari relates on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that ‘a man entered the mosque on a Friday and made his way towards the pulpit where the Prophet was delivering the khutba. He faced the Prophet and said “O Messenger of Allah, our wealth has been destroyed and our paths cut off so ask Allah to send us rain”. The Messenger of Allah raised his hands and said “O Allah give us to drink”….to the end of the hadith, and there is again no command to the man to pray nor is it mentioned that he offered two rakats.

iii. Al-Nasa’i in the chapter ‘stepping over peoples necks on Friday’ mentions a hadith in which a man was stepping over people’s necks making his way towards the front of the mosque during the khutba and the Prophet said to him “Sit down for you have caused harm”. In this hadith there was a direct command for the man to sit so he could not have prayed to greet the mosque.

iv. Imam Muslim relates from Abu Rifa’a that ‘I came towards the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) while he was giving the khutba. I said “O Messenger of Allah, an estranged man has come asking about his religion, he does not know what his religion is”. The Messenger of Allah came towards me and left his khutba until he reached me and was brought a chair, I thought the legs were made of iron. The Prophet sat on it and started teaching me from what Allah had taught him. Then he returned to his khutba and completed it.’ Again no mention is made of this man being told to pray two rakats before or after being taught by the prophet.

4.3 There is no real indication that the man was praying the two rakats for greeting the mosque. The fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked him whether he had prayed, despite the fact that he had just entered the mosque, implies that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was referring to prayers that the man could have prayed at home, i.e. the pre-Friday sunnas, and not the prayer for greeting the mosque. This being the case, this hadith cannot really be used to prove that one should greet the mosque during the khutba.

As for the other hadith quoted in favour of the Shafi’i opinion, namely ‘When of you comes on Friday and the imam has come out [to give the khutba] then let him pray two rakats.’ The Hanafi scholars have given a number of answers. Kamal ibn al-Humam mentions that the hadith must mean that one should do so provided that the imam is silent as happened in the sunna (referring to the above mentioned incident) or possibly the hadith was said in the time before speech and unnecessary actions were forbidden during the khutba.[Fath al-Qadir, 2:68, Dar al-Fikr] Mufti Taqi al-Uthmani explains why the hadith is not acted upon in it’s outward meaning in his Dars Tirmidhi with the following points:

A general rule when dealing with seemingly contradictory texts with one text forbidding an act and another permitting, is that precedence is given to the text forbidding the act.

This version of the hadith is not supported in its meaning by the Qur’anic text, rather it appears to oppose it.

It is not supported by the general practice of the Sahaba and the Tabi’in.

It is closer to being precautious in one’s religion (ihtiyat) to act contrary to this hadith as nobody says that praying the two rakats for greeting the mosque is obligatory whereas the hadiths forbidding speech and prayer do indicate that it is sinful to pray. Not praying, therefore, avoids sin without any doubt, whereas there are strong indications that praying in that time is sinful. [Dars Tirmidhi, 2:291, Maktaba Dar al-‘Ulum]


To conclude it is clear from the above discussion that the science of hadith and the science of fiqh are by no means one and the same thing despite what many well-meaning though not well-educated Muslims might believe. It is not sufficient to know a particular hadith regarding a particular subject. A legal ruling regarding anything must take into account all the hadiths that pertain to that particular issue along with relevant Qur’anic verses as well as all that has been transmitted from the early Muslim community. Unless one is able to do all this as well as apply well proven principles to judge between the various evidences, then one has no right to deem oneself right just because one has found a particular hadith that suits one, nor to deem others wrong for acting contrary to that hadith. Rather all must submit to the rulings of the schools of sacred law that transmit the opinions of the imams of the early Muslim community as well as those imams that followed them in knowledge and virtue, may Allah be pleased with them all. Any approach other than this is surely dangerous and destructive.

And Allah alone gives success.

Sohail Hanif


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