Some people prefer to perform all their prayers at home, going to the mosque only once a week, for Friday prayers. Others do the opposite, and attend prayers at mosques for all five daily prayers, leaving nothing to perform at home. There is no doubt that offering the obligatory prayers with the congregation in the mosque is much better and brings the worshipper much higher reward. In fact, praying with a congregation is given 27 times the reward for a prayer offered alone.
Yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) is quoted to have said several Hadiths encouraging us to allocate some of our prayers for home. Ibn Umar quotes him as saying: “Offer some of your prayers in your homes so as not to make these homes like graves.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
Islam considers the whole earth a place of worship. Prayers can be offered anywhere, apart from certain areas such as rubbish dumps, bathrooms or graveyards. Thus, wherever one happens to be at the time an obligatory prayer is due, one can offer prayers there. Islam does not like the idea that prayers should be offered only in a place dedicated for worship, such as a mosque or a temple. Prayers are part of a Muslim’s regular activities and can be offered anywhere.
At the same time, offering prayers in a congregation is strongly encouraged because it strengthens ties within the local community and brings people together. Worshippers exchange friendly conversation after prayers in a relaxed atmosphere. They inquire after those who miss a couple of prayers. Hence, Islam gives greater reward to congregational prayers.
At the same time, some people cannot attend prayers in mosques, particularly women who need to look after young children and people who are sick or attend to duties that must be completed without interruption. These people can offer their prayers at home or place of work.
In the Hadith we have quoted, and in several others, the Prophet encourages offering some prayers at home. Taken together these Hadiths appear to encourage that we offer the recommended and voluntary prayers at home, leaving the obligatory ones to offer in the mosque with the congregation. Thus we establish a proper arrangement, providing a good example for our women and children to encourage them to attend to their prayers regularly. At the same time we also attend mosques, participating with the local community, and gaining greater reward. We also fulfill a very important duty, the congregational prayer, which is an essential element of Islamic worship.
We note that the Prophet describes a home in which prayers are not offered to be like a grave. The similarity is in various aspects. Dead people have no duties of worship to perform. Therefore, a home in which no act of worship is offered is like a grave. On the other hand, a person who glorifies God and mentions His name is always alert to his duties. One who does not do that is like a dead person because he is oblivious of the meanings that come to mind when we glorify God and praise Him.
Hence, we combine all the good aspects of offering prayers and reaping the fruits of proper worship when we attend the mosque and offer our obligatory prayers with the congregation, leaving the regular recommended prayers and the voluntary ones to offer at home.