THE ETIQUETTE OF LEADING AND FOLLOWING IN THE PRAYER
The imãm should make the prayer brief. Anas رضي الله عنه said, “I did not pray behind anyone whose prayer was more brief or more complete than the Prophet of Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم” (Tabarãni, Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat).
The imãm should not make the opening takbir if the mu’adhdhin has not yet finished the call to commence, nor before the lines are straightened. The imãm should raise his voice with every takbir, but the follower should only raise his voice so that he can [at least] hear himself. The imãm should make the intention of leading the prayer in order to attain the merit [of doing so]. If he does not form this intention, then as long as the followers have made their intention to be followers, their prayer is correct and they will attain the merit of following.
The imãm should say the opening supplication and the ta’awwudh silently like one praying alone. He should recite the Fãtiha and the sura aloud in both rak’as of Fajr, the first two rak’as of Maghrib, and the first two rak’as of ‘Isha’. The individual praying alone does the same*.
The imãm should say ãmin aloud in the audible prayers**, as should the follower***. The follower should say his ãmin at the same time the imãm says ãmin, not afterwards.
The imãm may pause for a moment of silence after the Fãtiha to catch his breath****. During this pause in the audible prayers, the follower should recite the Fãtiha silently to himself, so as to enable himself to listen when the imãm is reciting.
The follower should not recite any surã other than the Fãtiha in audible prayers, except if he cannot hear the voice of the imãm.
The imãm should not say more than three tasbihs while bowing and while prostrating, nor should he add anything more in the first tashahhud after the words “O my Lord, bless Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad.”
He should read only the Fãtiha in the last two rak’as. He should not lengthen the prayer for the followers. He should not lengthen his supplication in the last tashahhud beyond the [combined] length of the tashahhud itself and the sending of blessings upon Muhammad the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم.
When making the closing salutation, the imãm should intend sending peace upon the congregation, while the followers should intend by their salutation the returning of his greeting of peace.
Immediately after the salutation, the imãm should turn around and face the followers. He should refrain, however, from doing so if there are women behind him, allowing them thereby to leave first. None of the congregants should rise till the imãm rises. The imãm can turn to leave from his right or his left as he wishes, but I consider the right to be preferable.
The imãm should not specify himself in the supplication of qunut in the Fajr prayer. Rather he should say, “O Allah, guide us.” He should say it aloud, and the congregation should say ãmin. They should not raise their hands, as doing so is not established in the narrations.
The follower should recite the rest of the qunut from the point at which it is said: “Verily You decree and none decrees over You.”
The follower should never stand alone [in a row], but rather should join a line or pull someone to stand next to him [if no space is found]. It is not right for a follower to precede the imãm in his movements, or to move simultaneously with him; rather, it is proper for him to make his movements slightly later. So he should not move to bow until the imãm has reached the full position of bowing, and he should not move to prostrate until the imãm‘s forehead has touched the ground.
*In the Hanafi school, this is mandatory (wãjib) for the imãm. The person praying alone has a choice to read aloud or silently in both the audible and silent prayers (Radd al-Muhtãr 1 : 315, 498).
**The audible (jahriyya) prayers are Fajr, the first two rak’as of Maghrib, ‘Isha’, Jumu’a, ‘Id, etc., in which the Fãtiha and the accompanying recitation is done aloud by the imãm.
***The ãmin should always be said silently in prayer according to the Hanafi school (Al-Lubãb 1 : 81).
****In the Hanafi school, a pause equivalent to the time it takes to slowly recite three tasbihs would necessitate a prostration of forgetfulness (Radd al-Muhtãr 1 : 506-7). Additionally, the follower may not recite the Fãtiha (Al-Lubãb 1 : 88), since the imãm‘s recitation is sufficielnt for the follower.