Praying in the car park
It is the general consensus of the scholars of the fours schools of thought that any or part of the congregation should not stand in front of the Imam in prayer, based upon the statement of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم):
ِإِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِه
“Verily, the Imam has been placed to be followed” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The Maliki and Hanbali schools view the preceding congregational position ahead of the Imam as permissible as this ruling is considered in situations of necessity, as it becomes permissible when no other place can be found behind the Imam, and there is a significant number of the congregation already praying behind him.
The majority of scholars from among the Hanafis, Shafi’is and Hanbalis have maintained the impermissibility of standing ahead of the imam, holding that it renders the prayer invalid. They based their opinion on the lexical meaning of the word ‘imam’ (leader) which denotes the spatial relationship between him and the congregation.
• 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.”
• The Malikis maintained the permissibility of standing ahead of the imam though they consider it disliked unless there is a necessity. They maintained the prayer’s validity if a person is properly able to follow the actions of the imam, and based their opinion on the fact that nothing has been mentioned in this respect. It is therefore excusable as long as it does not disrupt the prayer, by virtue of the person positioned in front of the imam being unable to follow the latter’s actions.
• 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.”
- Come to Jummah prayers as early as possible
- If you are late, pray outside in the car park wherever there is space
- If you are uncomfortable praying in front of the Imam, find a space behind him or wait for the second Jumuah
- Face the Qibla at all times
- Refrain from praying on the ramp and walkway