Attending Friday sermon in a Masjid with Imam who is an innovator

The prominent scholar Abdul-Azeez ibn Baaz -may Allaah have mercy on him- was asked as found in his majmoo’ al-Fatawa (4/303):

The First Question:

What is the ruling on a resident in the country of his family who adhere to acts of innovation? Is it correct for him to pray with them the congregational and Friday prayers or should he pray alone or does the (obligation of the) Friday prayer drop (and no longer apply to him), and if the people of the Sunnah are less than twelve in a city/town will the Friday prayers be valid for them or not?


Certainly establishing the Friday prayers is an obligation behind every imam; (whether they are) righteousness or sinful.

Therefore, if the imam of the Friday prayer’s innovation has not caused him to exit the fold of al-Islam, then he is to be prayed behind.

Al-Imam Abu Jaafar At-Tahawi –may Allaah have mercy on him- in his renowned Creed stated:

And we hold (correct) praying behind all righteousness and sinful people of the Qiblah (i.e. the Muslims) and (praying for) those who have passed away from amongst them. End quote.

The commentator upon this Creed -who is from the well-grounded researchers of al-Islaam- stated while explaining this (previous) fragment:

He (the Messenger) –peace and salutation be upon him- said:

« Pray behind every righteousness and sinful (person) ».

It was narrated by Makhool from Abu Huraira -may Allah be pleased with him- and collected by ad-Daaraqutni and he said: Makhoul did not meet Abu Huraira.

(Also present) in the chain of narration there is Muawiyah bin Salah who has been criticized, (though) Muslim (mentioned) him in his Saheeh relying upon (his narration).

It was also collected by ad-Daaraqutni and Abu Dawood from Makhoul from Abu Huraira may Allah be pleased with him, said: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him said:

« Prayer is obligatory upon you with every Muslim, whether he is righteous or sinful even if he perpetrates major sins. And Jihaad is an obligation upon you with every Ameer (appointed leader), whether he is righteous or sinful and even if he perpetrates sins.

Note: The previous hadeeth was also declared weak by al-‘Allaamah al-Albani in his checking of Sharh al-‘Aqeedah at-Tahawiyah. (al-Maktab al-Islaami pg.421).

In Saheeh al-Bukhari that Abdullah ibnu Umar used to pray behind al-Hajjaaj ibn Yusuf, as well as Anas Ibn Malik, and sinful oppressor.

And in his Saheeh (i.e. al-Bukhari 694) also that the Prophet, peace and salutations be upon him said:

« “If they (Imam) lead the Salat (prayer) correctly then they and you will receive the rewards, but if they make a mistake (in the Salat), then you will receive the reward for the Salat and the sin will be theirs.”»

And from the hadeeth Abdullah bin Umar, may Allah be pleased with him that the Messenger of Allah, peace and salutations be upon him said:

« Pray upon those who testify, Nothing worthy of worship but Allaah. And pray behind those testify Nothing worthy of worship but Allaah ». The hadeeth was collected ad-Daraqunti in multiple chains then declared weak.

Know may Allaah have mercy upon us and upon you, it is permissible for a man to pray behind a person whom he does not know from him innovation or indecency. And it is not a prerequisite for following (the imam) in the prayer that the one being lead knows the aqeedah (Creed) of his imam nor must he test him by saying “what is your belief”?

But rather, he prays behind the one whose apparent dealings are upright.

And if he was to pray behind an innovator calling to his innovation, or sinner who is outward with (his) immorality, and this (person) is the designated imam; whom the prayer is not capable of being established except behind him, like the Imam (for) Friday prayers, and ‘Eid prayers, and the imam of the Hajj prayer in ’Arafah, and so on: the person (seeking to) pray is to pray behind him in (the view) of the majority of the scholars of the Salaf (pious predecessor) and Khalaf (successors), and this is the opinion of Ahmad, Shafi’i, and Abu Hanifa, and others.

For this it is said in the books of the Creed (of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah):

“He (i.e. a person) prays Friday and ‘Eid behind every imam, whether he is righteous or sinful”, and likewise if there is not found in a village except one imam: then the congregational prayers are to be established behind him. For indeed, the prayer in congregation is greater than the prayer of a man alone, even if the imam (he is praying behind) is sinful.

This is the view the majority of scholars: Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Shafi’i, and others.
Rather the congregational prayer is an obligation upon all (males who have met its conditions) in the apparent view of Ahmad, and whomsoever leaves off the Friday prayer and the congregational prayer behind a sinful imam is an innovator with Imam Ahmad and other than him from the prominent scholars of the Sunnah, as was mentioned in the “risaalah ‘abdoos” and Ibn Malik and ‘Attaar.

Thus, what is correct is that he prays and he does not repeat the prayer. **

For indeed the companions used to establish the Friday prayer, and the congregational prayer behind imams who were sinful, and they would not repeat the prayer. Such as Ibn Umar, who would offer the prayer behind Al-Hajaaj and likewise Anas bin Malik. While Ibn Mas’ood and others would pray behind Al-Waleed bin ‘Uqbah, and he used to drink alcohol to the extent that he lead them in the Fajr prayer and prayed four raka’aat and then he said “should I increase you all”? Ibn Mas’ood replied, we have not ceased being with you since today in this increase. And because of this his (affair) was raised to Uthman –may Allaah be pleased with him-.

(Yet) in Sahih Bukhari when Uthman -may Allah be pleased with him- was besieged a person lead them and Uthman -may Allah be pleased with him- was asked by a questioner; you are the imam of the people, and this one who leads the people in prayer is an imam of fitnah (tribulation). He (Uthman) said: O son of my brother, the prayer is the best of that which the people do, so if they do well (in the prayer) then do well along with them, and if they act wrongly then avoid their error, and (the likes of this) are plenty.

And the sinful one as well as the innovator, their prayer in itself is correct, and if a person prays behind them, then his prayer will be valid.

Nonetheless, whoever (from the people of knowledge) who disliked the prayer to be prayed behind them, then this is because commanding with good and forbidding the evil is mandatory.

Furthermore, whoever is outward with an innovation or indecency should not be designated as an imam for the Muslims; for indeed he (I.e. the imam) deserves to be reprimanded up until he repents. And if it possible that he is boycotted so he repents then this is good.

And if it is that some of the people leave off the prayer behind him AND THEY PRAY BEHIND OTHER THAN HIM, this causes (the imam) to repent or he is dismissed or the people refrain from the likes of this sin, then such a person if the prayer is left off behind him there is in this a benefit and not the Friday prayer nor the congregational prayer are being missed by those praying.

However, if abandoning the prayer leads to the relinquishing of the Friday prayer or congregational prayer, then the prayer is not abandoned behind them EXCEPT BY AN INNOVATOR, in opposition to the Companions –may Allaah be pleased him them-.

Therefore, if it is possible that a person does not put forward (an individual) who is outward with his evil deeds (as an imam) then it is AN OBLIGATION for him to do so. However, if he (i.e. the imam) is appointed by someone else and it is not possible that he is dismissed (from his position) or it is not possible that he is dismissed from leading the prayer except that an evil greater than the evil he (i.e. the imam) manifested takes place, then it is NOT PERMISSIBLE TO PREVENT A LESSER EVIL WITH A GREATER EVIL. Nor is the lesser of two harms to be repelled with a harm which is greater.

For indeed the legislations have come with the achieving of what contains benefit and its completion, as well as the prevention of (all) harms and minimizing them as much as possible. And in abandoning the Friday prayers as well as the congregational prayers there is a greater harm in this than there is in being led by a sinful imam especially if leaving off the prayer does not repel any evil, then this (leads) to the relinquishing of a legislated gain (i.e. the establishing of the prayer) without the deterring of the evil.

But if possible, to establish the Friday and congregational prayers behind a pious (imam), then this is better than praying behind a sinful (imam).

Hence, if a person prays behind a sinful (imam) without any reason, then this is a subject of jurisprudence (i.e. where the stances of the scholars differ). From them are those who say he should repeat (the prayer) and from them are those who say he should not repeat and the place to discuss this in detail is in the books fiqh (jurisprudence). End of the words of commentator.

(Ibn Baaz said): The closest (statement to being correct) in this last matter is that (the prayer) is not to be repeated based upon the previous evidences. And because the origin is that it is not an obligation to repeat (the prayer) except in by way of a definite evidence which indicates this, and we do not know that it exists and with Allaah is success.

T.N: The speech between the ** was added from the statement of Shaykhul-Islaam as in majmoo’ al-Fatawaa (23/353), which the commentator Ibn Abil ‘Izz extracted his speech from.


The noble shaykh Yahya al-Hajooree after mentioning some of the statements of the people of knowledge as to what is intended by the idle speech during the Friday sermon he stated –may Allaah preserve him-:

And whatsoever is of this (type of) speech which consists of deviation from what is correct and contains falsehood or what resembles falsehood, then it is not befitting that this (type of speech) is listened to in the Friday sermon or other than it, based upon the evidences which we mentioned previously and the statements of some of the Salaf in that (aspect).
And if anyone is put to trial by this likes of this khateeb (i.e. person delivering the Friday lecture) someday, then LET HIM BUSY HIMSELF WITH THE REMEBRANCE OF ALLAAH AND TURN AWAY WITH HIS HEART AND HEARING FROM THE IDLE SPEECH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

For certainly, the harm present in listening to falsehood is greater than the benefit in being quiet, specifically this type of (false) speech.

For even if he does not obtain the reward for the Friday prayer, then him being safe from listening to sin is considered a gain (for him). And perhaps Allaah will reward him for hating the evil with his heart and his hating of falsehood and its people. End Quote.

The Shaykh then went on to give examples of the types of falsehoods in which a person should not pay attention such as; those who call to innovations or acts of sin and indecency and the aid of Allaah is sought.

Compiled by : Noble brother Abu ‘Atiyah Mahmood bin Muhammad