Question # 134: We have a musalla in our office, since there is no appointed imam, anyone leads the prayer. My questions: firstly, who is qualified to be an imam? Secondly, some of the ones who lead others in prayer rush through the prayer. Should such people be allowed to lead prayers?

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: According to scholars, the rules for the one, who should lead the prayer, are:

  1. The one who reads Qur’an best [the one with the most knowledge and best application of the rules of recitation]; then if they are equal in that,
  2. The most knowledgeable of the Sunnah; then if they are equal in that,
  3. The first one to have made hijrah (migration to the place of the Muslims); then if they are equal in that,
  4. The eldest in age.

Secondly, as for the imam, who does not recite at a moderate pace in his prayer and rushes through it, then one should not pray with him, if you run the risk of missing the essential part of the prayer. 

Long Answer: The following ahadith support the opinion of scholars with respect to the one, who should lead the prayers:

  • It was narrated that Abu Mas’ood al-Ansari (رضي الله عنه) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The people should be led in prayer by the one who has most knowledge of the Book of Allah; if they are equal in knowledge of the Qur’an, then by the one who has most knowledge of the Sunnah.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim)
  • Abu Sa’id (رضي الله عنه) narrates that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If you are three in number, then one of you should be the imam. And the one who has the most right to it is the one who is the most versed in the Qur’an.” (This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and an-Nasa’i) The meaning of “most versed in the Qur’an” is the one who has more of the Qur’an memorized. This is indicated by the hadith of ‘Amr ibn Salamah who said: “I used to memorize those words – meaning the Qur’an – and it was as if it took root in my heart. When Makkah was conquered, then every tribe hastened to embrace Islam, and my father urged our tribe to hasten to embrace Islam. When my father returned (from the Prophet) to his tribe, he said, ‘By Allah, I have come to you from the true Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)!’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) afterwards said to them, ‘Offer such-and-such a prayer at such-and-such a time, and when the time for the prayer becomes due, then one of you should pronounce the Adhan (for the prayer), and let the one amongst you who knows most Qur’an lead the prayer.’ So they looked for such a person and found none who knew more Qur’an than I, because of what I used to learn from the people. So they made me their imam (to lead the prayer) and at that time I was a boy of six or seven years.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
  • Abu Mas’ud (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The imam of a people should be the one who is the most versed in the Book of Allah. If they are equal in their recital, then the one who is most knowledgeable of the sunnah. If they are equal in the sunnah, then [it is] the one who migrated first. If they are equal in that, then [it is] the eldest. And no man should be an imam for another man if the other holds authority [i.e., a leader in any capacity or ruler of the Muslim people]. And one should not occupy his place of honor in his house without his permission” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, graded sahih).

[Next, as for the imam, who rushes through the prayer,] Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “If it is known that the imam does not recite at a moderate pace in his prayer and that he does not stand long enough to allow the people praying behind him to complete al-Faatihah, then you should not pray with him at all, because it is not permissible to pray with him, as you are caught between two things: either you will follow him and miss out on the essential part of the prayer, or you will do the essential part of the prayer and miss out on following the imam. We warn these imams about such things. The scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) have stated that it is haram for the imam to rush so much that it prevents the person praying behind him from doing what is obligatory, and reciting and moving at a moderate pace are obligatory. It is not acceptable for such imams to be imams of the Muslims, and they should be dismissed from the post of imam if they are employed as such…” (Liqa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh) (Islamqa.info)

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