Can I pray the Night Prayer in a group of two or more?
Yes, it is permissible if done occasionally – not if done continuously as the Prophet ﷺ prayed with Hudayfah (reported in Al-Bukhari. Hadith Number 992), Ibn Masaud (reported in Muslim. Hadith Number 773) and Ibn Abbas (reported in Muslim. Hadith Number 772).
However, continuously praying the night prayer in congregation outside of Ramadan is an innovation as the Prophet ﷺ did not do it (continuously).
As for (praying it consistently) in Ramadan, this is OK, because The Companions of The Prophet ﷺ used to pray ‘Taraweeh’ in congregation. Likewise, the Prophet ﷺ himself would pray in congregation with his companions during some of the nights in Ramadan, so this has an origin but must not be done continuously (outside of Ramadan).
The following division was mentioned by Shaykh Al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah), as we have previously encountered.
There are some voluntary prayers that are only prayed in congregation, such as ‘salatu kusoof’ (the prayer offered during a lunar or solar eclipse) this is how it is unusually prayed. However, it can be prayed individually by women or anyone unable to go to the masjid. The person who is able to, must go to the masjid as the Prophet ﷺ, his Companions and even some women would go.
Similarly, the Eid Prayer is also only prayed in congregation – based on the view it is voluntary – however, the correct view is that it is obligatory because the (obligation of) the Jumm’ah Prayer is removed by it (i.e if it is prayed on Jumm’ah ) and the fulfillment of a voluntary prayer cannot remove the fulfillment of an obligatory prayer.
‘Salatul Istisqa’ (the prayer offered in supplication for rain) is also only prayed in congregation and it is a voluntary prayer.
There are also some voluntary prayers that cannot be prayed consistently in congregation. It is only permissible to pray them in congregation occasionally; such as ‘Salatu Duha’ and the Night Prayer. If they are prayed in congregation occasionally, this is OK.
(Shayk Al-Islam mentioned in Majmooa Fatawa Volume 23 pages 413-414)
Voluntary prayers in congregation are of two types:
(1) That which is consistently performed in congregation such as ‘Kusoof’, ‘Istisqaa’, and the Night Prayer in Ramadan. These prayers are always prayed in congregation in keeping with the Sunnah.
(2) That which is not consistently performed in congregation; such as the Night Prayer, the voluntary prayers that are attached to the obligatory prayers, ‘Duhaa’ and the prayer upon entering the masjid, etc. If they are prayed in congregation occasionally, this is permissible but if consistently prayed in congregation this is an unprescribed act, rather it is a disliked ‘bid’ah’.
Answered by: Shaykh Abu Bilaal Al-Hadhramy – may Allah preserve him
Answered on: 21 Muharam, 1441
Translated by: Abu Sufian Saami ibn Daniel Al-Ghaani