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Congregational Prayer

The congregational performance of daily prayers is supererogatory, that of Friday- and `Id-prayers, in case of meeting the prerequisites, is obligatory, and that of recommended prayers, except istisqa’ (praying for rainfall), is forbidden. The first recorded instance of a congregational prayer dates back to the time of Abu Talib. It is reported that once Prophet Muhammad and `Ali (PBUT) were praying together while Abu Talib and his son Ja`far happened to pass by. Abu Talib is said to have told Ja`far to join his cousin in prayer. Once the Holy Prophet (PBUH) realized that Ja`far had assumed the position of a follower, he became the imam. From then on the positions of the imam and the follower were established. Twice in the Quran the command is given to prostrate alongside those in prostration (the performers of ritual prayer). The commands, however, are not directed to Muslims. In the first verse the subjects are the Jews: “… and bow with those that bow” (Baqarah 2: 43), and in the second is Mary: “… be obedient to thy Lord, prostrating and bowing before Him” (Al-i `Imram 3: 43). 

There exist a vast number of Shi`ite and Sunni hadiths on the virtues of congregational prayer. Some of the positive aspects of this mode of prayer include: (1) those unfamiliar with the rites gain a better understanding of them; (2) the young, the middle aged, and the old pray in unison, following the lead of a qualified imam, without any distinctions among them; (3) all outward differences are set aside and people of various social and ethnic backgrounds pray in one language, asking God to lead them to the straight path.

* source: Gorji , Abolghasem "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.409

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