In order to understand this
issue, we need to consider the fact that narratives in this regard are of two
types. Both are authentic yet apparently contradicting.
The first type of narratives gives the
message that praying in the mosque is an obligation that must be fulfilled at
all costs and there can be no reason for a person who hears the adhān to
not come to the mosque. For example:
A blind person once asked relief from
the Prophet (sws) in coming to the mosque, he was at first given the permission;
and then the Prophet (sws) asked him: “Do you hear the voice of the adhān?”
When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (sws) said that he would then
have to come to the mosque.
The Prophet (sws) warned people: “I
would like to burn the houses of those who do not come for the prayer, and would
like to have them thrown over these people.”
It is narrated by Ibn Mas’ūd (rta) that
even the sick in those times would come to the congregational prayer by limping
on the shoulders of two people.
The second category of narratives give
the message that praying in the mosque is highly rewarding though it is not an
obligation. Some of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) in this regard
are the following:
The congregational prayer is twenty
seven times more rewarding than the individual prayer.
If people knew how highly rewarding
reaching the mosque at the time of the adhān is and standing in the first
row is, and if for this they had to cast lots, they would have done this. And if
they knew the reward of outdoing others for the zuhr prayer, they would
have done so. And if they knew the reward for the fajr and ‘ishā
prayer they would have reached the mosque even if they had to drag themselves
A person who prayed the ‘ishā prayer in
congregation is like a person who stood for worship till midnight and a person
who prayed the fajr prayer in congregation is like a person who spent the whole
night standing in worship.
Both these types of narratives, of
course, oppose one another and cannot be true at the same time unless there is
some other explanation to them.
A deliberation on the Qur’an shows that
in the times of the Prophet (sws), there had come a time after the truth had
been conclusively communicated to his addressees when true believers were
separated and isolated from the Hypocrites and Disbelievers so that the final
judgement of God could be pronounced on the latter two denominations. The first
category of narratives seems to be an application of this directive of God:
coming to the mosque was a barometer in determining who was a true believer and
who was not. Hence this was regarded as compulsory. However, after the departure
of the Prophet (sws), this was of course no longer required since the divine
practice of God regarding His Messengers had reached its culmination.
In other words, what can be said is that
while the first category of narratives relates to the divine practice of God
regarding His Messengers, the second category gives a general picture.
Needless to say that all narratives must
be related to their basis in the Qur’ān and Sunnah or in the norms of sense and
reason for narratives cannot give an independent directive of religion. They
must be related to their basis in the original sources.