Offering congregational Salaat is a Compulsory Sunnah (Sunnah Moukkada). The Hadith describe much excellence and importance of this. At the same time, the Hadith also describe the rules and guidelines related to congregational Salaat.
The Masjid in which an Imam has been appointed and the timings of congregational Salaat also have been fixed, as per Fiqh Hanafi, making a second congregation in such a Masjid is Makruh (undesirable), as multiple congregations for Salaat will reduce the number of people in the first congregation.
We understand from the Hadith that congregational Salaat has extraordinary importance. This shows the numbers and unity of Muslims and encourages mutual relationships between Muslims. For this reason, in light of the Hadith, the Fuqaha (jurists) have declared the second congregation as Makruh.
The importance of congregational Salaat can be easily understood with the following Hadith of Sahih Bukhari:
Translation: By Him who holds my life in His hands! Verily I had decided to order that wood be gathered, then give the order of Salaat, Adhaan be given for it, then order someone else to lead the Salaat, then go to the houses of some people and set their houses on fire right over their heads. By Him who holds my life in His hands! If they understood that they will get a chunk of bone or meat*, they would definitely come for Salaat Ul Isha. (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No. 644)
If the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had permitted a second congregation for Salaat, He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) would not have given such a severe reprimand for those who don’t attend congregational Salaat.
Once the congregational Salaat was over, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) did not make a second congregation for Salaat, as given in this Hadith:
Translation: Hadhrat Abdur Rahman Bin Abu Bakrah (May Allah be well pleased with them) narrates on the authority of his father that went to the outlying areas of Madina. When He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) returned, He saw that people had already offered the Salaat. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) went to His house, gathered His family members and offered Salaat with congregation. (M‘ojam Ausat Lit Tabarani, Hadith No. 4757)
If the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had no reservations about making a second congregation, then on this occasion, He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) would have made a second congregation.
The Traditions of the Companions and the Taba‘een also establish the same:
Translation: It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Ibrahim Nakah‘i (May Allah be well pleased with him) that Hadhrat ‘Alqama and Hadhrat Aswad (May Allah be well pleased with them) came to the Masjid along with Hadhrat ‘Abdullah Bin Mas‘ud. People were returning after finishing the Salaat. Hadhrat ‘Abdullah Bin Mas‘ud returned to the house along with Hadhrat ‘Alqama and Hadhrat Aswad (May Allah be well pleased with them). He put one of them on his right side and the other on his left and offered Salaat with (this) congregation. (M‘ojam Kabeer Lit Tabarani, Hadith No. 9275)
There is a Hadith in Jame’ Tirmidhi and Sunan Abu Dawood:
Translation: It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Abu Sa‘eed Khudri (May Allah be well pleased with him): A person came (to the Masjid) at such a time when the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had finished His Salaat. the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Is there anyone among you will gain reward along with him? A certain person volunteered and he offered Salaat along with him.
After mentioning this Hadith, Imam Tirmidhi (May Allah shower His mercy on him) writes 2 opinions of the scholars. The second opinion is:
Translation: Other scholars have said that in the Masjid in which congregational Salaat is over, it is better to offer Salaat singly rather than make a second congregation. Hadhrat Sufyan Thauri, Hadhrat ‘Abdullah Bin Mubarak, Imam Malik and Imam Shafa‘ee (May Allah shower His mercy on them) all hold this opinion and rule in favor of offering Salaat singly. (Jame’ Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 220)
Seemingly, the aforementioned Hadith supports making a second congregation, but this cannot be deduced from this Hadith as the person who offered Salaat with the person who had come late, offered Nafl (optional) Salaat as he had already offered Salaat in the lead of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) as is understood from the earlier part of the Hadith, “A person came when the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had finished His Salaat.” As given ‘Allama Ibn Abideen Shami (May Allah shower His mercy on him) in Durre Mukhtaar, Bab Ul Imamah.
However, if someone is punctual about offering Salaat with congregation and misses the congregation by chance and that person makes a second congregation, then it is not Makruh.
If the Masjid is situated on any highway or far from population, then making a second congregation is correct, as given in Radd Ul Muhtaar.
And Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) knows best.
Mufti Hafidh Syed Ziauddin Naqshbandi Qadri
[Professor, Islamic Law, Jamia Nizamia,
Founder/Director, Abul Hasanaat Islamic Research Center]