Whether reciting Takbir in congregation is permissible or not

Q: I was living at a small town in the United States of America where more than one hundred and fifty Muslims once assembled (Part No. 7; Page No. 157) to offer Salat-ul-`Eid (the Festival Prayer). A fierce battle would have erupted between them because of a dispute on whether reciting Takbir (saying: "Allahu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]") in congregation is permissible. Had it not been for Allah's Mercy, the Muslims would have been the laughingstock of those lying in wait, including secularists and non-Muslims. The pro-impermissibility party argued that this was not the practice of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) and that the basis regarding Adhkar (invocations and remembrances said at certain times on a regular basis) and Du`a' (supplication) is to be said individually. Moreover, there is no explicit Nas (Islamic text from the Qur’an or the Sunnah) either in a Marfu` (a Hadith narrated from the Prophet with a connected or disconnected chain of narration) or a Mawquf (words or deeds narrated from a Companion of the Prophet that are not attributed to the Prophet) Hadith on reciting Takbir in congregation. The pro-permissibility group that adopted that reciting Takbir in congregation is Mashru` (Islamically prescribed) and not just permissible supported their argument using the same corps of Nas quoted by the first party while interpreting them differently:1- Admitting that the basis regarding Du`a' is that it should be said individually does not exclude the permissibility of saying it in congregation. An analogy should be drawn between this and congregationally saying Amen at the end of a certain form of Du`a, which is a practice consistent with the nature of Du`a'.2- The two Hadiths reported on Takbir explicitly state that someone says Takbir and the people follow suit either simultaneously or consecutively. The first narration reads: "Ibn `Umar and Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with them both) used to go out to the market place during the ten days (of Dhul-Hijjah) saying Takbir so that they caused the people to say it as well." (Related in Sahih [Authentic Hadith Book] Al-Bukhari, Kitab Al-`Eidayn (Book of the Two Festivals), chapters on 'Superiority of Good Deeds during Days of Tashriq [11th, 12th and 13th of Dhul-Hijjah]' and 'Reciting Takbir during the Days of Mina'. The other narration states: "`Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say Takbir in his tent in Mina (in such a loud voice) until the people at (Part No. 7; Page No. 158) the Masjid (mosque) heard him and would follow him saying Takbir. Indeed, the people at the markets of Mina also followed suit until the entire Mina would shake with Takbir." Moreover, women would say Takbir following Abban ibn `Uthman and `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz during the nights of Tashriq. (See Al-`Asqalany's Fat-h-ul-Bary Vol. 2, P. 535) The proponents of this view argued that the two narrations clearly indicate that Takbir was said in congregation for the following reasons: the wording of the statement "would follow him saying Takbir" is used to denote doing some act congregationally as in the Hadith: The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to offer Salah (Prayer) during the night. Seeing this, people stood up to follow him in Salah. (Related in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Kitab Al-Adhan (Book of Adhan [call to Prayer]), 'If there is a Wall or a Sutrah [barrier placed in front of a person praying] between the Imam and Ma'mums [persons being led by an Imam in Prayer]'. Another narration of the Hadith states: and he (peace be upon him) offered Salah there for a few nights, and so some of his Sahabah (Companions) followed him in Salah. (Related in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Kitab Al-Adhan (Book of Adhan), 'Night Prayer')

A: First: Du`a' and Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah) are among the great acts of `Ibadah (worship). In fact, acts of `Ibadah are based on following authentic Nas rather than on innovation. The basis for Du`a' is to be said individually and in a low voice as indicated by Ayahs (Qur'anic verses) and authentically reported Hadiths. To this effect, Allah (Exalted be He) says: And offer your Salât (prayer) neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between. It is reported that `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said, "This Ayah was revealed concerning Du`a'." (Part No. 7; Page No. 159) (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Allah (Glorified be He) also says: Invoke your Lord with humility and in secret. He likes not the aggressors. Some Mufassirs (exegetes of the Qur'an) interpreted 'aggressors' to refer to those who say Du`a' loud. Moreover, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says: And remember your Lord within yourself, humbly and with fear and without loudness in words in the mornings, and in the afternoons and be not of those who are neglectful. It is reported in the Two Sahih Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ary (may Allah be pleased with him) said: When we were with Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) in a battle, we never went up a hill or reached its peak or went down a valley without raising our voices with Takbir. Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) came close to us and said, "O people! Do not exert yourselves, for you do not call a deaf or an absent one, but you call The All-Hearing, The All-Seeing." Since the Prophet (peace be upon him) disapproved of raising voices with Takbir while in an open space, (Part No. 7; Page No. 160) doing so at Masjids and in harmonious melodious voices should be disapproved with greater reason.Furthermore, a group of Salaf, from among the Sahabah and later generations, are reported to have disapproved of assembling to say Du`a' or Dhikr (were it Tahlil, saying: "La ilaha illa Allah [There is no god except Allah]", Takbir or Tasbih, saying: "Subhan Allah [Glory be to Allah]") in one voice. Abu `Uthman Al-Nahdy is reported to have said, "A governor under `Umar ibn Al-Khattab sent him the following letter: 'Some people here assemble to invoke Allah for Muslims and for the emir.' `Umar replied: 'Come all to me'. `Umar ordered the gateman to prepare a whip. The governor came along with those people. On entering upon `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), he proceeded to whip the emir. Moreover, `Umar ibn Yahya said he heard his father reporting his father as saying: "We used to sit by the door of `Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud before Salat-ul-Ghadah (morning Prayer) so that when he came out we would walk with him to the Masjid. (One day) Abu Musa Al-Ash`ary came to us and said: 'Has Abu `Abdul-Rahman come out yet?' We replied in the negative. He sat down with us until he came out. When he came out, we all stood along with him, so Abu Musa said to him: 'O Abu `Abdul-Rahman! I have just seen something at (Part No. 7; Page No. 161) the Masjid which I considered wrong, but all praise be to Allah, I did not see anything except good in it.' He inquired: 'What is it?' Abu Musa replied: 'If you live you will see it. I saw in the Masjid people sitting in circles awaiting Salah. In each circle they had pebbles in their hands and a man would say: 'Repeat Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest) a hundred times' and they would do so. Then he would say: 'Say La ilaha illa Allah (There is no god except Allah) a hundred times' and they would do so. Then he would say: 'Say Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah) a hundred times' and they would do so. 'Ibn Mas`ud asked: 'What did you say to them?' Abu Musa said: 'I did not say anything to them. Instead I waited to hear your view on it.' A lengthy conversation took place until Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said addressing those people: 'Woe to you, O Ummah (nation based on one creed) of Muhammad (peace be upon him)! How quickly are you heading to destruction! Here are your Prophet's Sahabah still alive, and there are his clothes which have not yet decayed and his bowl which is yet unbroken. By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! Either you are following a religion that is better guided than the religion of Muhammad (peace be upon him) or you are opening a door of Dalalah (deviation from what is right).' They said: 'O Abu `Abdul-Rahman! By Allah, we only intend good!' He said: 'How many are there who intend good but do not achieve it.'" As we can see, Abu Musa Al-Ash`ary and Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with them both) denied the manner and the congregational style of saying Dhikr. Therefore, although Dhikr is Mustahab (desirable) and recommended, (Part No. 7; Page No. 162) it should not be said in such an innovated manner. Moreover, its style and method should conform to the way in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his honorable Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) are reported to have said it.Besides, Mujahid said: "I offered the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer along with Sa`id ibn Al-Musayyib. Immediately after Taslim (salutation of peace ending the Prayer), the people hurried to listen to the storyteller. Sa`id then said, 'I wonder how fast they are going to this assembly!' Mujahid said, 'I answered him that they act in accordance with that which Allah (Exalted be He) says.' Sa`id said, 'In what Ayah?' Mujahid answered: And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon Sa`id then said, 'This Ayah refers to the Salah which we have just offered. Certainly, it refers to Salah.' Moreover, Mujahid also said: "Abdul-Rahman ibn Abu `Amrah offered Salah at Al-Masjid Al-Nabawy (the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah). Once he finished Salah he sat reclining against the room of the Prophet (peace be upon him). People crowded around him. He asked the people to leave him alone. People then said to him, 'May Allah have mercy on you! They came seeking to act in accordance with the Ayah that reads: And keep yourself (O Muhammad SAW) patiently with those who call on their Lord (i.e. your companions who remember their Lord with glorification, praising in prayers, etc., and other righteous deeds, etc.) morning and afternoon, He replied: "Do you think the Ayah refers to what you are doing now? In fact, it refers to (Part No. 7; Page No. 163) Salah." No doubt, this narration and others like it obviously indicate that the Salaf used to disapprove of assembling for saying Du`a' or Dhikr and doing so as a regular practice. If raising the voice and saying it in melodious tones are added to this, such a practice would be even worse.To sum up, the Mashru` practice regarding Du`a' and Dhikr is that they should be said individually and in such a low voice as may be heard only by the speaker or the person nearby. In fact, the Law-Giver (the Prophet) made few exceptions to this rule such as the Du`a' of the Imam during Salah and saying Amen after his Du`a', were this after Al-Fatihah (Opening Chapter of the Qur'an), in Qunut (supplication recited while standing after bowing in the last unit of Prayer) or otherwise. Second: As for the Athar (narrations from the Companions) that states that `Umar would be in his tent in Mina and say Takbir until the people at the Masjid would hear him and follow suit, and that the people at the market place also followed them until the whole of Mina would shake with Takbir and that Ibn `Umar and Abu Hurayrah used to go out to the market place during the ten days (of Dhul-Hijjah) saying 'Allahu-Akbar', causing the people to follow suit, we can say that though the people at the Masjid in the first case heard `Umar, this does not necessarily mean that he said Takbir in an outrageous loud voice. Rather, he (may Allah be pleased with him) was sonorous and his tent was adjacent to the Masjid. Therefore, when he (Part No. 7; Page No. 164) would say Takbir, the people at the Masjid would become alert and start saying Takbir individually. The same was the case with Ibn `Umar and Abu Hurayrah In fact, they (may Allah be pleased with them both) were not reported to have exaggeratedly raised their voices with Takbir. Indeed they were far from acting contrary to the Hadith: Do not exert yourselves, for you do not call a deaf or an absent one. Moreover, `Umar, his son and Abu Hurayrah would say Takbir individually as well as those who heard them. Actually, they did not assemble to say Takbir in congregation in one melodious voice. And Allah knows best. Third: All Muslims at all times and places should exchange advise, explore all related issues in light of the Book (the Noble Qur'an) and the Sunnah (acts, sayings or approvals of the Prophet) objectively and completely free themselves from being slanted towards other than Al-Haqq (the Truth). Moreover, they should love good for their Muslim brothers exactly what they love for themselves and do their best to achieve unity and affability and avoid dispute and alienation. In addition, everyone should exert efforts to follow the Sunnah and the way of the Salaf being the source of all good and virtue. Given this, disagreement on such issues should never cause hostility and fighting. Rather, it is Wajib (obligatory) to advise one another, clarify the correct Sunnah practice and not to dispute on offering Salah in congregation because of such issues. We ask Allah, The Generous, (Part No. 7; Page No. 165) to grant our Muslim brothers and us success and guidance and to confer on us the bounty of following and remaining steadfast on Al-Sirat-ul-Mustaqim (the Straight Path). We also ask Him to guard us against following the way of those who earned His Anger, nor of those who went astray for indeed He is The All-Hearing, The Ever-Near and The Supreme-Answerer.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.