Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

Habitually Omitting Sunnah Prayers (2)

[The following message has been edited so that the question can be understood when the letter for those who do not get HTML messages.]

Assalamu 'Alaykum,

[You wrote:]

1. Being upright with respect to religion, which is a combination of
a. performing the five obligatory prayers with their associated sunnahs
b. avoiding the unlawful, which is avoiding enormities [kaba'ir] and not persisting in a lesser sin [saghirah]

Does this not denote that the overwhelming majority (if not everybody) of the jama'a would be considered fasiq, since many people (especially in the United States) may persist in one minor sin or the other?

2. Exhibiting good character [muru'ah], which is doing the things which are typically considered to improve and polish one's character, and avoiding things which are typically considered ugly and shameful.

Now let's say you do not perfectly fit all the above criteria, but you know you fit them better than anyone else in the jama'a, is it permissible for you to lead the prayer? And if you are asked to be the Imam, what do you do?

Also, would innovators (such as Salafis and Shi`a) be considered fasiq, even if they may exhibit the above characteristics?

Furthermore, if one does pray behind a fasiq, is his Salat valid? What are the consequences of performing Salat behind an Imam who is considered a fasiq?

Wa `alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Corruption [fisq] is not a matter that any Muslim should take lightly. Persisting in lesser—not “minor”—sins means that one does them over and over again without making repentance. It matters not whether the entire society engages in the same practice: it is a sin for which we can be held accountable.

When it comes to legal judgments—which deal with the outward—people are either upright or corrupt, with corruption falling into two categories: manifest [zahir] or hidden [mastur]. What matters is whether or not someone is corrupt (and in some issues whether it is manifest or hidden), not the degree of their corruption.

The ruling of praying behind someone who is corrupt is that the group prayer is invalid. Whether the imam is less corrupt than the followers makes no difference: the prayer is still invalid. Someone who prays behind such a person has not, according to the madhhab, carried out what Allah Most High has ordered.

Someone who is corrupt is not fit to lead the prayer, and he should refuse if asked to lead. Leading the prayer, like all positions involving responsibility, must only be given to qualified individuals, and preferably to the one the most qualified. While it is permissible to put forward the least qualified, it nonetheless is still a condition that the person be qualified. With regards to the group prayer: absence of corruption is part of what it means to be qualified to lead it. Someone who is corrupt is still required to obey Allah, and in this given situation this obedience includes refusing to lead the prayer. We tend to be negligent in letting any individual lead us in prayer. This is unlikely to change without reminding those who have forgotten and teaching those who do not know. Perhaps someone will indeed make a fuss about not leading the prayer because of lack of qualification with this intention; and may Allah give them success in doing so. Also, we should refuse to pray behind those unqualified to lead; after all, what sort of Muslims are we if we accept less than even the bare minimums of the Shari`a?

Regarding praying behind innovators: It all depends on what type innovation the person is involved with. No individual from Ahl al-Sunnah should ever hesitate to pray behind anyone else from Ahl al-Sunnah unless they have sure knowledge that that particular individual is corrupt; hearsay and suspicion are not enough. It is truly amazing that we are so worried about Madhhabism, Sufism, and Salafism when there are ever greater things out there to be worried about. Why so much passion when it comes to declaring the Madhhabis followers of misguided innovation, the Sufis grave worshipers, and the Salafis anthropomorphicists, things which at least have a basis within Ahl al-Sunnah; and yet we are hardly moved when it comes to things like domestic abuse, rebutting the deniers of hadith, “re-formers”, and “modernists”: things no two Sunnis argue about?

I mentioned these deniers of hadith, “re-formers”, and “modernists” because they justify their views by pointing out the moral failure and indifference of the followers of traditional Islam. Their argument is that Ahl al-Sunnah (its methodology, its conclusions, its scholars, all it holds dear) is illegitimate because it does not produce morality. Wrong as the argument is, it is seductive enough to do its damage.

The great disaster here is not that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are unqualified to lead group prayers or bear witness in a court of law, because here there is great mercy to be found in the differences between the madhhabs. Rather the great disaster is that none of this concerns them. Could there be a greater disaster than death of one's heart?

For additional benefit, here is the text from Matalib Uli al-Nuha Fi Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha:

( فَصْلٌ ) ( وَلَا تَصِحُّ إمَامَةُ فَاسِقٍ مُطْلَقًا ) أَيْ : سَوَاءٌ كَانَ فِسْقُهُ بِالِاعْتِقَادِ أَوْ الْأَفْعَالِ الْمُحَرَّمَةِ , وَلَوْ كَانَ مَسْتُورًا لقوله تعالى : { أَفَمَنْ كَانَ مُؤْمِنًا كَمَنْ كَانَ فَاسِقًا لَا يَسْتَوُونَ } وَلِمَا رَوَى ابْنُ مَاجَهْ عَنْ جَابِرٍ مَرْفُوعًا { لَا تَؤُمَّنَّ امْرَأَةٌ رَجُلًا , وَلَا أَعْرَابِيٌّ مُهَاجِرًا , وَلَا فَاجِرٌ مُؤْمِنًا إلَّا أَنْ يَقْهَرَهُ بِسُلْطَانٍ يَخَافُ سَوْطَهُ وَسَيْفَهُ } وَعَنْ ابْنِ عُمَرَ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ : { اجْعَلُوا أَئِمَّتَكُمْ خِيَارَكُمْ , فَإِنَّهُمْ وَفْدُكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ رَبِّكُمْ } لَكِنْ قَالَ الْبَيْهَقِيُّ عَنْ هَذَا : إسْنَادُهُ ضَعِيفٌ ; وَلِأَنَّ الْفَاسِقَ لَا يُقْبَلُ خَبَرُهُ لِمَعْنًى فِي دِينِهِ , فَأَشْبَهَ الْكَافِرَ ; وَلِأَنَّهُ لَا يُؤْمَنُ عَلَى شَرَائِطَ . ( وَإِنْ ) صَلَّى ( ب ) فَاسِقٍ ( مِثْلِهِ ) ; لِأَنَّهُ يُمْكِنُهُ رَفْعُ مَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ النَّقْصِ بِالتَّوْبَةِ , ( أَوْ ) صَلَّى الْفَاسِقُ إمَامًا ( فِي نَفْلٍ ) , فَلَا تَصِحُّ إمَامَتُهُ عَلَى الْمَذْهَبِ , ( إلَّا فِي جُمُعَةٍ وَعِيدٍ تَعَذُّرًا خَلْفَ غَيْرِهِ ) , أَيْ : الْفَاسِقِ بِأَنْ تَعَذَّرَ أُخْرَى خَلْفَ عَدْلٍ لِلضَّرُورَةِ . وَنَقَلَ ابْنُ الْحَكَمِ أَنَّهُ كَانَ يُصَلِّي الْجُمُعَةَ ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي الظُّهْرَ أَرْبَعًا . قَالَ : فَإِنْ كَانَتْ الصَّلَاةُ فَرْضًا , فَلَا تَضُرُّ صَلَاتِي , وَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ , كَانَتْ تِلْكَ الصَّلَاةُ ظُهْرًا أَرْبَعًا .
( وَإِنْ خَافَ ) إنْ لَمْ يَصِلْ خَلْفَ فَاسِقٍ ( أَذًى , صَلَّى خَلْفَهُ , ) لِمَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ قَوْلِهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم : { إلَّا أَنْ يَقْهَرَهُ بِسُلْطَانٍ } . . . إلَى آخِرِهِ , ( وَأَعَادَ ) نَصًّا . ( فَإِنْ وَافَقَهُ ) , أَيْ : الْفَاسِقَ ( فِي فِعْلٍ مُنْفَرِدًا ) بِأَنْ لَمْ يَنْوِ الِاقْتِدَاءَ بِهِ , ( أَوْ ) وَافَقَهُ فِي الْأَفْعَالِ ( فِي جَمَاعَةٍ خَلْفَهُ بِإِمَامٍ ) عَدْلٍ , ( لَمْ يُعِدْ ) لِأَنَّهُ لَمْ يَقْتَدِ بِفَاسِقٍ .
( وَمَنْ صَلَّى بِأُجْرَةٍ لَا جُعْلٍ , لَمْ يُصَلِّ خَلْفَهُ ) , قَالَهُ ابْنُ تَمِيمٍ . قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُد : وَسَمِعْت أَحْمَدَ يُسْأَلُ عَنْ إمَامٍ قَالَ : أُصَلِّي بِكُمْ رَمَضَانَ بِكَذَا وَكَذَا ؟ ؟ قَالَ : أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ الْعَافِيَةَ , مَنْ يُصَلِّي خَلْفَ هَذَا ؟
( وَيَتَّجِهُ ) : صِحَّةُ الصَّلَاةِ خَلْفَ مَنْ ظَاهِرُهُ الصَّلَاحُ , ل ( أَنَّ الْأَصْلَ هُنَا ) , أَيْ : فِي الْإِمَامَةِ ( الْعَدَالَةُ ) عَمَلًا بِالظَّاهِرِ , وَتَحْسِينًا لِلظَّنِّ بِأَهْلِ الْقِبْلَةِ , وَهَذَا لَا يَسَعُ النَّاسَ غَيْرُهُ , إذْ لَوْ اعْتَبَرْنَا الْعَدَالَةَ ظَاهِرًا وَبَاطِنًا لَضَاقَ بِنَا الْمَجَالُ , وَتَعَذَّرَ عَلَيْنَا مَعْرِفَةُ مَنْ اتَّصَفَ بِهَذِهِ الْحَالِ , وَهُوَ مُتَّجِهٌ .
وَحِينَئِذٍ ( فَتَصِحُّ ) الصَّلَاةُ ( خَلْفَ إمَامٍ لَا يَعْرِفُهُ ) أَيْ : يَجْهَلُ عَدَالَتَهُ وَفِسْقَهُ , إذْ لَمْ يَتَبَيَّنْ الْحَالُ , وَلَمْ يَظْهَرْ مِنْهُ مَا يَمْنَعُ الِائْتِمَامَ بِهِ ; لِأَنَّ الْأَصْلَ فِي الْمُسْلِمِينَ السَّلَامَةُ , ( فَإِنْ عَلِمَ فِسْقَهُ بَعْدَ ) فَرَاغِهِ مِنْ الصَّلَاةِ , ( أَعَادَ ) , وَهُوَ الْمَذْهَبُ . قَالَهُ فِي " الْمُبْدِعِ " .
( وَالِاسْتِحْبَابُ ) أَنْ يُصَلِّيَ ( خَلْفَ مَنْ يَعْرِفُهُ ) عَدْلًا لِيَتَحَقَّقَ بَرَاءَةُ ذِمَّتِهِ .

And Allah knows best.

Wa al-salamu `alaykum,