“I live in Sri Lanka and wondered if it was acceptable for the Muslim community here to gather for the sake of remembering Allah as a congregation?”
This is a controversial issue amongst the scholars. Some saw gatherings for the purpose of reciting Qur’an and the remembrance of Allah [in a group] as innovation, and there were others who saw it as something venerable. Each and every one of these scholars relied on certain proofs and evidences. Some relied on the statement of Ibn Mas’ud* [may Allah be pleased with him] “Indeed, you have brought an evil innovation”, and there were others who relied on the apparent [meaning of] the statement of the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] who said, “No people gather together, in one of the homes from the houses of Allah, reciting the Qur’an and studying it amongst themselves, except tranquility descends upon them, they are shrouded in mercy, the angels envelop them with their wings and Allah makes mention of them in front of those who are with Him.” [related by Muslim #2699]. So, the explicit meaning of this hadith directs towards the permissibility of such gatherings. Imam al-Awza’i [may Allah have mercy upon him] was asked about gatherings, after the Dawn prayer, that included congregational studying and the remembrance of Allah [meaning they did so with one voice not silently]. He responded, “There is nothing wrong with such gatherings.” Al-Awza’I said, “Hassan bin ‘Atiyyah informed me that the first person to start this practice was Hisham bin Ismail al-Makhzomi during the caliphate of Abdul Malik bin Marawan and he was criticized for it.”
There were some who rejected what Hisham had done, such as Imam Malik [may Allah have mercy upon him], and there were others who said, “There is no problem with this.” Harb mentioned that he saw the people of Damascus, Hims and Basra gathering together to recite the Qur’an after the Dawn prayer. However, the people of Sham would read the Qur’an together with one loud voice, while the people of Basra and Mecca would gather and one person would read ten verses while the people would remain silent. After the first person finished, they others would read what he had read until they would complete what he had recited. Harb, commenting on this said, “All of this is excellent and pleasing.”
Regarding Sri Lanka, then I tend to lead towards the opinion that such an action is fine. If the Muslims gather there, from time to time, to study and recite the Qur’an [together], or to remember Allah [together], without there being any forbidden acts such as mixing between the sexes, dancing or any type of evil, then it is good, and it is incumbent to avoid making [the observance of such acts] difficult upon them.
Dr. Abdullah Bin Bayyah
• Some have questioned the authenticity of this narration from Ibn Mas’ud. Their main contention is that it contains Amr b. Yahya. However, there are other narrations without ‘Ami b. Yayah such as the one found in Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq, vol 3, p. 221, hadith 5408 which is Hassan.