Question # 75: I missed my Isha prayer in jama’ah and when I reached the masjid, the Imam started praying taraweeh. At the same time, I saw some brothers joined together to pray Isha as a separate jama’ah at the back of the masjid. Is it right to join them in congregation or what should be done?

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: If someone enters the masjid, while Taraweeh prayer is in progress, or the imam started to pray Taraweeh shortly after ‘Isha’, it is better to join the imam in Taraweeh, with the intention for praying fard (obligatory) ‘Isha’. Then, when the imam says tasleem after the two rak‘ahs, he should stand up and complete the remaining two rak‘ahs by himself. The scholars of the Standing Committee and Shaykh Ibn Baaz favored this view. If, however, there is enough time before the start of Taraweeh to pray ‘Isha’, then in that case, it is better to pray in jama‘ah with other Muslim brothers, who have missed the jama’ah for Isha’ prayer with the Imam.

Long Answer: The scholars differed concerning the ruling on offering fard (obligatory) prayer behind an imam who is offering a nafil prayer. Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni: There are two reports concerning the prayer of one who is offering an obligatory prayer behind one who is offering a nafil prayer, one of which is that it is not valid. This view was favored by most of our companions, and this is the view of al-Zuhri, Malik, and ashab al-ra’y, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The imam is appointed to be followed, so do not differ from him.” (Agreed upon)

[The other view is that it is permissible.] There is nothing wrong [in] praying… with the intention of praying ‘Isha’ [behind the imam who praying Taraweeh], according to the more correct of the two scholarly views. When the imam says the tasleem he should stand up and complete his prayer. [Imam al-Shafi’i and Ibn al-Mundhir were of the view that this is permissible, and this is also narrated from Ahmad. The scholars of the Standing Committee and Shaykh Ibn Baaz also favored this view.]  It was proven in al-Sahihayn from Mu’aadh ibn Jabal that he used to pray ‘Isha’, then he would go back to his people and lead them in ‘Isha’ prayer, and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not denounce that. This indicates that it is permissible to offer a fard prayer behind someone who is praying a nafil prayer. In al-Sahih it is also narrated that in the fear prayer, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) led one group in praying two rak’ahs then he said the tasleem and led the other group in praying two rak’ahs, then he said the tasleem, so the first one was his fard (obligatory) prayer and the second was nafil for him whilst they were praying fard (Narrated by Abu Dawood).

[Therefore,] If [some brothers enter the masjid] …straight after the [Isha] prayer, and there is enough time before Taraweeh to pray ‘Isha’, then in this case it is better for them to pray in jama‘ah on their own, so as to avoid differing with those scholars who do not allow a person to offer an obligatory prayer behind (an imam) who is offering a nafil prayer.

But if they came in whilst Taraweeh prayer was in progress, or the imam started to pray Taraweeh shortly after ‘Isha’, and there is the fear that if a second jama‘ah prays, the two groups will disturb one another, then in this case it is better to join the imam in Taraweeh, with the intention of praying ‘Isha’. Then when the imam says the tasleem after two rak‘ahs, they should stand up and complete the prayer by themselves.

(The above reply is based on various answers by Islam Q&A on the topic)

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.

Wassalaam