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:
Waiting in the bowing position (ruku) for the latecomer to join the congregation is a controversial matter. However, the stronger position among scholars is that it is permissible with some conditions.
Responding to your question, Dr. Hatem Al-Hajj, Dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah University and a member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA), states:
Waiting in the bowing position (ruku) for the latecomer to join the congregation is controversial, and here is a brief summary of the positions:
1- Impermissible, since the intent of every action in prayer should be for Allah, not others. This is the position reported from Abu Hanifah and Ash-Shafi`i and some Malikis. Yet, the verifying Hanafi scholar Ibn Abideen said that if he is sure his intention is pure, then it won’t be disliked to wait according to the agreement of Hanafis, yet they cautioned that ensuring that would be hard.
2- Disliked, except if some harm will ensue for the imam if he didn’t wait, or if the latecomer is ignorant, and may get confused regarding the rulings of the prayer.
3- Permissible, and may be recommended as well, if there will be no hardship ensuing for the congregation praying with him, which should be small to be certain of that. To support this position, Ibn Qudamah, in Al-Mughni, cited the hadith indicating that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to lengthen the first rak`ah until he no longer heard footsteps. Besides the Hanbalis, this position was also upheld by Abu Thawr and Ishaq, and An-Nawawi chose it in Al-Majmu` and added two other conditions:
1- The imam does this only for Allah’s pleasure, and even if it is for the benefit of the latecomer, it is not for the latecomer’s pleasure with him. Thus, he will do the same regardless of the latecomer’s status.
2- That the latecomer would be inside the mosque, and the wait is not too long, and these two concur with the Hanbali position on the lack of hardship for the congregation.
The Hanbali position, chosen by An-Nawawi and others, is the strongest one, given the conditions mentioned are all met.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.