بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Q: Is it permissible to perform prayer at home even though the adhan is heard? Likewise deeming the congregational prayer in the masjid to be preferred instead of obligatory (is this permissible)?
A: Some scholars considered congregational prayer in the masjid to be a prerequisite for the validity of prayer, consequently the prayer at home is not allowed unless one is excused. Some scholars hold the opinion that congregational prayer is an individual obligation, yet prayer at home is (still) valid. If one is legitimately excused (in Islam), then Allah will overlook it if He wills and will write his intent. However if he is not excused then he must perform the prayer at the masjid along with the Muslims.
The evidence for this position is what Abu Huraira narrated where the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- said “I swear by Him in whose Hand is my soul, indeed I intended the ordering of firewood (to be gathered), then (the command for) the prayer and hence the adhan is called, then order an individual so that he can lead the people (in prayer). Next I will come behind some men (who do not answer the call to prayer) and burn their homes. I swear by Him in whose Hand is my soul if any of them knew that they would find a meaty bone or two pieces of meat he would have been present for Ishaa.”
Likewise Ibn Masud said, “We held the opinion that an individual is not absent from the prayer except a hypocrite whose hypocrisy is known, or a sick person even though he is sick he still walks between two men until he reaches the prayer.” He means the people know of the hypocrisy of this individual due to his lagging behind on the congregational prayer intentionally.
The congregational prayer is a distinguishing characteristic from the Islamic practices and from the greatest of Islamic practices. Therefore it is not permissible for a Muslim to be absent from it except with a (legitimate Islamic) excuse, like if he oversleeps or is sick. If he prays in his home while he is excused then all praise is for Allah alone and He will accept it from him.
On the other hand, if he is deliberate (in being absent) and as such prays the congregational prayer in his home while he hears the summons to it, then no. If you hear the summons to prayer it becomes binding upon you to respond to it. Ibn Umm Makhtum narrated when he asked the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam-, “O Allah’s Messenger indeed I am a blind man with a home far away (from the masjid), and I have a guide who does not aid me, so is there for me a concession to pray at home?” The Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam said: “Do you hear the summons?“He replied, “yes.” He -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- said: “I can not find for you a concession.” Hence the subject is very important, so preserve your prayers in congregation at the masaajid. Why does one call to the prayer? Why does he say to you come to the prayer? He is saying to you arrive, appear, show up!
Translated by Abu Abdil Waahid Najeeb Al Anjelesi
Source: فتاوى فضيلة الشيخ العلامة ربيع بن هادي عمير المدخلي