Question # 6: What do I do if when I reach the masjid for Fajr prayer and the congregation has started and I have not prayed my two rak’ah Sunnah as yet?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah consented that if a person comes to the masjid and finds the iqama is pronounced or the Fajr Salah has started, he should join the jama’ah (congregation) of Fard Prayer and then he may offer two rak’ah of Fajr Sunnah after the (obligatory) prayer, to make it up, or he may offer it after the sun has risen, whichever is preferable.

Long Answer: The two Sunnah rak’ah before Fajr is sunnah raatibah prayer (established Sunnah). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) never failed to offer this prayer, whether he was at home or travelling. Concerning the virtue of this prayer, the following ahadith are to be noted:

  • It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنه) said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not adhere more firmly to any naafil prayer than the two rak’ah of Fajr.” (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).
  • The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The two rak’ah of Fajr are better than this world and everything in it.” (Narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi & Nasa’i)
  • Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Do not leave the two rak’at of the Fajr, even if you are being attacked by a cavalry.” This is confirmed by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Baihaqi, and at-Tahawi. (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)

However, it was narrated from Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When the Iqamah for prayer is called, there is no prayer except the prescribed (obligatory) prayer.” (Reported by Muslim)

In another narration, it was Narrated Malik bin Buhaina (رضي الله عنه): Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) passed by or saw a man offering two rak’ah after the iqama (had been pronounced). When Allah’s Messenger completed the salat (prayer), the people gathered around him (the Prophet), or that man and Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to him (protestingly), “Are there four rak’ah in Fajr prayer? Are there four rak’ah in Fajr prayer?” The hadith explains that no salah (prayer) is to be offered except the compulsory salat after the iqama has been pronounced for that compulsory Salat (Reported by Al-Bukhari).

Therefore, if a person comes to the congregation and finds them already praying and he prays with them without having offered the Sunnah prayer first, he may offer it after the (obligatory) prayer to make it up, or he may offer it after the sun has risen and become high, which is preferable. Both options are mentioned in the hadith, and he has the choice, in sha Allah (Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, Fataawa Noor ‘ala ad-Darb)

The pieces of evidence are mentioned in the following ahadith:

  • It was narrated by at-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud from Qays ibn ‘Amr, who said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came out when the iqaamah for prayer had been given, and I prayed Fajr with him, then the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) finished and found me praying. He said, “Take it easy, O Qays. Two prayers together?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I did not pray the two rak’ah before Fajr.” He said, “No, then.” According to the version narrated by Abu Dawud, the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) remained silent. This hadith was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

Al-Khattaabi said: This shows that the one who misses the two rak’ah before the obligatory prayer may offer them after the prayer before the sun rises (‘Awn al-Ma’bood).

It is said in Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi: “Two prayers together?” is a question in the sense of denouncing, i.e., two obligatory prayers at the time of one obligatory prayer. Because there is no naafil prayer after Fajr. Therefore, it should be noted that the words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), “No, then,” mean: there is nothing wrong with you offering these two rak’ah at that time. This is indicated by the report of Abu Dawud, which says, “and the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) remained silent.” And ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabaah narrated that a man of the Ansaar said: “He did not say anything to him.” Al-‘Iraaqi said: its isnaad (chain) is hasan. And a version narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah says: “He did not tell him to do that or tell him not to do it.” And a version narrated by Ibn Hibbaan says: “he did not denounce him.” The reports explain one another.

The majority of the scholars opined that this does not contradict the ahadith that prevent one to pray after Fajr until the sun rises the length of an arrow in the sky because what the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade is praying without a reason. This is also evidenced from the following hadith: “When the dawn breaks, no prayer is to be performed except the two rak’ah of the Fajr Prayer” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and other compilers of Hadith).

  • Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) narrated that Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ‘Whoever did not pray the two rak’ah [Sunnah] of Fajr; then he should pray them after the sun has risen.’ (‘Hadith Sahih, collected by Tirmidhi in ‘Kitab as-Salah’, Chapter: what is mentioned regarding praying them after sunrise, and authenticated by al-Haakim, Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban in ‘al-Ihsaan’ and it is authenticated by the researcher of that book, and al-Albaani authenticated it in ‘Saheeh Sunnan at-Tirmidhi’, and also in Silsilah Saheeehah)

As for the four major schools of thought, Imam Al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad were of the opinion that the person, who misses his Fajr Sunnah, should join the jama’ah and pray sunnah after the jama’ah is finished, either before sunrise or after that. On the other hand, Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Malik are of the view that if one expects to find at least one rak’ah of the jama’ah he may pray sunnah, preferably in his home or at a place in the Masjid which is distant from the Imam. This view of Imam Abu Hanifah’s based firstly on the Mutawatir ahadith prohibiting any prayer after the fard of Fajr up to the sunrise and secondly on the basis of the practice of a large number of Sahabah who used to pray sunnah before they joined the jama’ah. This practice is reported from Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abdullah ibn Abbas and Abu al-Darda (رضي الله عنه). These reports may be seen in Tahavi and Musannaf Abdur Razzaq. As for the Hadith of Qays Ibn Amr, Imam al-Tirmidhi has mentioned that the chain of its narrators is broken. Moreover, this Hadith is reported in different versions. Therefore, this narration is not held by Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Malik to be of such a status that may repudiate the rule prescribed in the Mutawatir Ahadith that no prayer after fard of Fajr is allowed until the sun rises (Mufti Taqi Usmani). However, we should not forget that the hadith of Qays Ibn Amr was classed as sahih by al-Albaani (20th-century scholar) in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.