If we pray in the masjid al-Haram, we may face the situation that we could face the Imam during the congregation prayer or even pray in front of him (the Imam prays behind us). This might be a single and special case. (See also my other somewhat relevant question: Where did the Imam stand for leading congregation prayer in the masjid al-Haram (in the early days of Islam)?)

But I recall that for example Eid prayer scholars discuss the issue on taslim for those who pray in front of the Imam or beside him (when the prayer is done properly in a Mosalla), so there might be some backup for such cases in books of fiqh.

I'd like to know about those cases and the views of the different maddhabs and their evidence for allowing or prohibiting this!

1 Answer 1


The majority of the Hanafi, Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars are of the view that it is impermissible to stand in front of the imam during prayer as the rhetoric meaning of the word 'imam' which denotes the spatial relationship between him and the congregation.

The Malikis consider it to be permissible but disliked and should only be done in necessities such as lack of prayer space in the masjid or a latecomer having no space to pray.

The only maintain is to be permissible so long as the person in front can follow the imam's action and the fact that nothing has been mentioned about this matter before. It is therefore excusable if the person doesn't interrupt the prayer by not being able to follow the imam's actions.

Scholarly opinions:

  • Impermissible

The Shafi'i scholar, Ibn Qasem al-Ghazzi, said in Fath Al-Qareeb Al-Mujeeb Sharh Matn Al-Ghaya wa Al-Taqreeb,

"Standing behind the imam in any place in the mosque in such a manner that one is aware of the imam's actions or of those praying in the [previous] rows fulfills the obligation for (following the imam) as long as a person does not stand ahead of him. A prayer is invalid if a person's shoulder extends outward beyond the imam's though there is no harm in standing adjacent to him; it is recommended to stand a little behind."

  • Permissible

The author of Mawahib al-Jaleel Sharh Mukhtasar Khaleel cited the following,

"It is doubly disliked for a person to stand ahead of the imam [in a group prayer] or the bier [in a Funeral prayer]: once for standing ahead of the imam and the other for standing ahead of the bier. Based on this, standing ahead of the bier is disliked only, and the prayer is valid whether the person standing ahead is an imam or a follower."

The author of Al-Fawakeh al-Dawani 'ala Risalat ibn abu Zayd al-Qirwani,

"It is known from what we have decided that the order of standing [in a group prayer] behind the imam is recommended; it is disliked to do otherwise just as it is disliked to stand in front of or adjacent to the imam without a necessity."

In al-'Adawi's meta-commentary on Sharh Kifayat al-Talib ar-Rabbani:

"It is permissible and not disliked to stand ahead of the imam during prayer for an excuse such as lack of space in the mosque."

Ruling for a latecomer who finds no space inside the masjid and therefore prays outside:

  • Stand behind the imam or at least be in line him.

  • Not stand in front of the imam except when he cannot stand behind or be adjacent to him provided he is able to follow his actions.

  • Intend to follow the Malikis in this respect. His prayer will then be valid as is the prayer of a latecomer whom he follows in prayer.

And Allah knows best.

Source: Dar Al-Ifta Fatwa

  • I was expecting that this might be allowed in some sunnah/nafl prayers. Indeed we were at the time taking darss in matn ibn 'Ashir a Maliki book.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 22:02
  • What do you mean, congregation is only for fard salah therefore making me confused when you said 'I was expecting that this might be allowed in some sunnah/nafl prayers'? Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 22:15
  • I meant that i was expecting a larger acceptance for similar cases as stated for nafl/sunnah prayers such as eid prayer... but if i understand correctly only Malikis accept such a case.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 22:17
  • Isn't Eid salah wajib? Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 11:23
  • Eid prayer might be wajib for hanafis, it is sunnah muakkada for almost all madhhabs AFAIK.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 13:56

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