What do the scholars and experts of shari’ah say in regard to reading the two sunnahs of Fajr whilst jama’at is taking place?
There is great emphasis in the ahadith of the Beloved Prophet ﷺ regarding the two sunnahs of Fajr. Imam Abu Ja’far Tahawi has quoted in his commentary “Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar” that it is narrated from Abu Darda (may Allah be pleased with him), that if the Fajr prayer in congregation had started and he had not yet performed his sunnahs, he would offer them in a corner of the mosque and then join the congregational prayer.
However, we should avoid the following practice which is quite prevalent. Some people have the habit of standing in the rows of whilst the Fajr prayer is taking place and immediately start reciting the Sunnah prayers while being connected to the congregational rows.
These results in a couple of drawbacks. One drawback is that the Imam is reciting the Qur’an loudly, which is obligatory to listen to, and the person engaged in performing the Sunnah prayers is neglecting this obligation. The second drawback is that sometimes one may miss the congregational prayer itself due to praying the sunnahs. For this reason, in the blessed ahadith, where there is a strong emphasis on performing the Sunnah prayers of Fajr, the scholars of Islamic jurisprudence have also given a warning. They advise that if there is a fear of missing the congregational prayer due to performing the Sunnah prayers of Fajr, then it is better to leave the Sunnah prayers and join the congregation. After sunrise, one can make up the missed Sunnah prayers before the disliked time.
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever misses the two units of Fajr prayer should perform them after the sunrise.” (Tirmidhi)
In summary, if you can join the congregation after performing the Sunnah prayers of Fajr, then one should perform the Sunnah prayers. If you have already started performing the sunnahs and then the congregation begins, complete the prayer and then join the congregation. If you haven’t started the Sunnahs yet, then it is necessary to join the congregation if it is imminent. This is because Fard takes precedence over Sunnah.
And Allah ﷻ knows the best
This fatwa is written by Dr Hafiz Munir Al-Azhari