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Can I Pray Behind an Imam Whose Juristic Training is Different from Mine?

15 July, 2021
Q As-salamu `alaykum. What should one do if the imam he/she is praying behind is offering the prayer according to a different juristic school? Should he/she follow the imam as he is praying or pray in his/her own way?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

1- We are ordained to follow the imam in prayers regardless of differences in fiqh.

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2- There is no difference among jurists in the fundamental deeds either in prayer or any other act of worship.

Responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) orders us to follow the imam in prayers. So if you are praying behind an imam and he is a Shafi`i, Hanafi, or Maliki, and you follow a different madhhab (juristic school), you ought to follow him, regardless of your own madhhab.

This is the way the great imams practiced Islam. They never stayed away from praying behind each other because of differences in such details of fiqh.

In fact, they inherited differences from the Prophet’s Companions, and the Companions followed each other in spite of their differences.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.