Reward of Praying Fajr & Isha in Congregation
These, my Muslim brothers are some of the pieces of evidence that oblige the Muslim servant to pray in congregation, and whoever ponders in the Quran and Sunnah will find more and more.
Each piece of the preceding evidence is enough in itself to be proof that salat al-jama'ah is obligatory. We also remind our brothers that the Muslim servant is not allowed to reject anything from Allah or his Messenger just because a certain scholar ruled differently. Evidence is an argument against all people. Imam's that have concluded differently are expected to have a valid excuse because even they cannot contradict clear evidence from Quran and Sunnah. Their teachings that people must follow Quran and Sunnah are well known, and they, may Allah have mercy upon them, did not become Imam's except by strong adherence to Quran and Sunnah.
1 – Abu Huraira R.A.A. narrated that the Messenger of Allah said "The heaviest Salat for the Hypocrite is that of Fajr & Isha'a and if they knew what was in them they would have attended them even if it meant crawling, and I have a strong desire to order the salat to be established, then order a man to lead the people in Salat then I would go with some men carrying bundles of wood to a people not attending the salat and burn their houses on them." Agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim, and this was Muslim's version. This hadeeth proves that Salat (Al-Jama'ah) in congregation is obligatory because one's house would not be burned for leaving a sunnah.
2 – Al-Bukhaari (615) and Muslim (437) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If they knew what there is (of reward) in ‘Fajr’ and ‘Isha’ prayer, they would come to them even if they had to crawl.” ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: To attend Fajr prayer in congregation is dearer to me than spending the whole night in prayer. Al-Istidhkaar (2/147).
3 – In Saheeh Muslim (656) it is narrated from ‘Uthmaan (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever prays ‘Isha’ in congregation, it is as if he spent half the night in prayer, and whoever prays Fajr in congregation, it is as if he spent the whole night in prayer.”
4 – According to another report narrated by Abu Dawood (555) and al-Tirmidhi (221): “Whoever prays ‘Isha’ in congregation, it is as if he spent half the night in prayer, and whoever prays ‘Isha’ and Fajr in congregation, it is as if he spent the (whole) night in prayer.
Know this because it is beneficial to you.
Of Allah's bounty upon us with regards to this issue is that the best of people, the companions of the Messenger , have had Ijma'a (consensus) in it. There are no narrations passed down from any one of them giving leave not to pray in congregation. And following is what has been confirmed by them:
Ibn Mas'ood said, "and I have seen us, where not one of us would stay behind except for a hypocrite whose hypocrisy was known." (5th evidence) Ibn Mas'ood, Abu Musa Al-Ash'ary, Ali, Abu Huraira, Ayesha, and Ibn Abbas have stated, "Whoever hears the call to salat and does not answer, there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse." (3rd evidence)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said after he presented the statements of the companions: "These are statements of the companions as you find them, authentic and well known, and there is not one known statement from any of the companions which contradicts this. Each of these pieces of evidence is enough all by itself, so how about when they all enforce one another. Verily in Allah is our success."
You now know, may Allah have mercy upon you, the preceding evidence concerning the obligatory status of salat al-jama'ah,and the statements of those that conclude it as such from amongst the pious predecessors of our Ummah (nation.)
Now what remains for you to know is that whoever prays alone, then his prayer is correct; however, he has the ithm (sin) of leaving the jama'ah (congregation). As for the acceptance, or rejection, this is up to The Creator, and no one can say that the prayer of Zaid is accepted while the prayer of Obaid is not.
We ask Allaah to help us in remembering and thanking him and better worshipping him. Allaah the exalted knows best.
Islam Q&A Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid