All Praise is due to AllaahA- Evidence From The Qur'an
Our Lord tabaraka wa ta'aala said in S4 V102 what may be translated as "When you are with them, and stand to lead them in salat, Let one party of them stand up (in salaf) with you. Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them take their position in the rear, and let the other party come up which has not yet established salat- and let them establish salat with you."
Our Lord the Exalted has said in S68 V42-43 what may be translated as "The day that a Shin shall be laid bare, and they shall be summoned to prostrate, but they shall not be able to. Their eyes will be cast down, ignominy will cover them, seeing that they had been summoned aforetime to bow in adoration while they were whole, and had refused.)"
The evidence here is from several facets amongst them:
Allah ta'aala said in S2 V43 what might be translated as "Establish salat and pay your zakat and bow with those that are bowing".
The proof therein is:
Abu Huraira R.A.A. narrated that the Messenger of Allah said "The heaviest salat for the hypocrite is that of Isha'a and Fajr and if they knew what was in them they would have attended them even if it meant crawling, and I have a strong desire to order the salat to be established, then order a man to lead the people in salat then I would go with some men carrying bundles of wood to a people not attending the salat and burn their houses on them." Agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim, and this was Muslim's version.
This hadeeth proves that salat al-jama'ah is obligatory because one's house would not be burned for leaving a sunnah.
Those of the opinion that salat al-jama'ah is not obligatory find refuge in a few excuses with regards to this hadeeth which follow:
The first: cancelling what the Messenger
confirmed and related to missing
The second: Confirming what the Messenger cancelled. For he never punished the hypocrites for their hypocrisy; to the contrary, he used to accept from them what they announced, and left what they concealed between them and Allah.
As such the hadeeth of Abu Huraira remains a strong argument for the obligation of salat al jama'ah.
What Muslim narrated in his Sahih that a blind man said, "Oh Messenger of Allah, I do not have someone to guide me to the Mosque," and thus asked the Messenger to grant him special permission not to attend congregational prayers. As he was leaving, the Messenger called him and said "Do you hear the call? ", he said "yes". He said, "Then answer." Authentic versions narrated by Ahmed and others came as: narrated by Ibn Maktoom that he said: "Oh Messenger of Allah, I am blind, live far away, and have a guide that does not suit me, so can't you give me consent to pray at home?" He said "Do you hear the call?" Ibn Maktoom replied "Yes". The Prophet then said "I cannot find an excuse for you". If the blind man has no excuse not to pray in congregation, how can there be an excuse for the one that can see?
Those that conclude salat al-jama'ah to be sunnah say, "This is an order to pray in congregation that implies the preference not the obligation of salat al-jama'ah".
The response to this is that since the order here was unrestricted one needs supportive evidence to conclude that it was only meant to show preference. Now how about supportive evidence confirming salat al-jama'ah to be obligatory.
If supportive evidence were not necessary to conclude that an order was stated to imply preference then each and every order could be understood to have been implying preference, and nothing would remain obligatory.
Narrated by Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them (him, and his father), that the Prophet said, "Whosover hears the call to salat, and does not respond, then there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse." This is a sound, and authentic hadeeth.
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote in his Risalat Assalat "... and mind you this chain (referring to chain of narration of the above hadeeth) is authentic." This hadeeth has been narrated by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Daar qutni, Al-Hakim, Al-Baghawi, Bayhaqi, and has also been traced and judged authentic by the following scholars: Al-Thahabi, Al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Qayyim Al, and Al-Albani. Some have spoken about this hadeeth, claiming that its chain is stopped (literal translation for the Arabic word mawqoof; however, the authentic chains of narrations which have been traced to the Prophet contradict their claim.
That hadeeth states that whoever does not answer the call, there is no salat for him, and this judgment would not be passed to someone who is simply going against an order which implies preference, and not obligation.
Abdullah Bin Mas'ood said: who ever would be pleased to meet Allah as a Muslim, then let him take care of those salat which are called to because they are of the ways of huda (guidance), and Allah has given to your Prophet the ways of huda. And if you were to establish salat in your homes, like that person staying behind in his home, you would be abandoning the sunnah of your Prophet, and if you were to abandon the sunnah of your prophet you would surely go astray. And there is not a man amongst you that purifies himself (yatatahhar), and does so properly, then directs himself to one of these mosques except that Allah will write for him with each step he takes a hasanah (merit), and raises him a grade, and drops from him a sayyi'ah (demerit). And I have seen us, where not one of us would stay behind from prayer in congregation except for a hypocrite whose hypocrisy is known. And one that could not come on his own would be carried between two men until he is stood in the row.
In another narration he said, "the Messenger of Allah taught us the ways of huda, and amongst the ways of huda is salat in the Mosque in which Athan is called". Narrated by Muslim.
The evidence in this hadeeth is that not praying in congregation is considered a sign of confirmed hypocrisy.
It is known that the signs of hypocrisy are those of abandoning something which is obligatory, or doing something which is haram (unlawful.) And there is not a Muslim in whose heart iman (faith) has established itself, that would want to be like the hypocrites in their attributes.
Abu Asha'a'thaa'a Al-Muharibi said: We were sitting in the masjid (mosque) then the Mu'athin (the one that makes the call to prayer) made the call to prayer. Then a man got up from the masjid walking. Abu Huraira followed him with his sight until he left the Masjid. Then Abu Huraira said "as for this person he has disobeyed Abal Qasim (the Messenger) ". Narrated by Muslim.
Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, judged this man as having disobeyed Abal Qasim , and Abu Huraira would not have passed this verdict without knowledge of the sunnah of Abal Qasim . And whosoever is considered among the disobedient then he has left something which is obligatory.
These, my Muslim brothers are some of the pieces of evidence that oblige the Muslim servant to pray in congregation, and whoever ponders in the Quran and Sunnah will find more and more.
Each piece of the preceding evidence is enough in itself to be proof that salat al-jama'ah is obligatory. We also remind our brothers that the Muslim servant is not allowed to reject anything from Allah or his Messenger just because a certain scholar ruled differently. Evidence is an argument against all people. Imam's that have concluded differently are expected to have a valid excuse because even they cannot contradict clear evidence from Quran and Sunnah. Their teachings that people must follow Quran and Sunnah are well known, and they, may Allah have mercy upon them, did not become Imam's except by strong adherence to Quran and Sunnah.
Know this because it is beneficial to you...
Of Allah's bounty upon us with regards to this issue is that the best of people, the companions of the Messenger , have had Ijma'a (consensus) in it. There are no narrations passed down from any one of them giving leave not to pray in congregation. And following is what has been confirmed by them:
Ibn Al-Qayyim said after he presented the statements of the companions: "These are statements of the companions as you find them, authentic and well known, and there is not one known statement from any of the companions which contradicts this. Each of these pieces of evidence is enough all by itself, so how about when they all enforce one another. Verily in Allah is our success."
These are the statements of the people of knowledge:
You now know, may Allah have mercy upon you, the preceding evidence concerning the obligatory status of salat al-jama'ah,and the statements of those that conclude it as such from amongst the pious predecessors of our Ummah (nation.)
Now what remains for you to know is that whoever prays alone, then his prayer is correct; however, he has the ithm (sin) of leaving the jama'ah (congregation). As for the acceptance, or rejection, this is up to The Creator, and no one can say that the prayer of Zaid is accepted while the prayer of Obaid is not.
We ask Allaah to help us in remembering and thanking him and better worshipping him. Allaah the exalted knows best.