What is the dominant position regarding the virtues of acquiring Takbīrah Ūlā, is it when the Imam starts Ṣalāh or at any point in the first rakʿah? Can you provide some Aḥadīth regarding the virtues of Takbīrah Ūlā?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
(1) The preferred view is that the virtues of Takbīrah Ūlā are acquired when a person joins Ṣalāh when the Imam starts Ṣalāh.
(2) Ṣalāh is the most important obligation for a believer and congregational prayer has been strongly recommended in the ḥadīths. Performing Ṣalāh behind the Imam from the beginning of Ṣalāh is also recommended and our pious predecessors would make every possible effort not to miss the first Takbīr.
Allah Almighty says, “And rush towards forgiveness from your Lord” (3:133). Some exegetists suggest that this is a reference to Takbīrah Ūlā.
Further, the following are some ḥadīths and statements of our predecessors in this regard:
عن ابن عمر أنه سمع الإقامة وهو بالبقيع فأسرع المشي إلى المسجد
It is reported from Ibn ʿUmar that he heard the Iqāmah whilst he was at Baqī, so he walked quickly to the Masjid (al-Muwaṭṭāʾ, 1:72, the narration is ṣaḥīḥ).
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: من صلى لله أربعين يوما في جماعة يدرك التكبيرة الأولى كتب له براءتان: براءة من النار وبراءة من النفاق
The messenger of Allah ﷺ said: Whoever performs Ṣalāh for Allah for forty days in congregation, catching the first Takbīr, two absolutions are written for him: absolution from the Fire, and absolution from hypocrisy (Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 241, the narration is weak, however, acceptable in matters of virtues).
قال سعيد بن المسيب: ما فاتتني التكبيرة الأولى منذ خمسين سنة وما نظرت في قفا رجل في الصلاة منذ خمسين سنة
Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyib (d. 94/712-3) said: I have not missed the first Takbīr for fifty years and I have not glanced at the nape of a man in Ṣalāh for fifty years [a reference to performing Ṣalāh in the first row] (Ḥilyat al-Awliyāʾ, 2:163).
قال محمد بن سماعة القاضي: مكثت أربعين سنة لم تفتني التكبيرة الأولى إلا يوما واحدا ماتت فيه أمي ففاتتني صلاة واحدة في جماعة فقمت فصليت خمسا وعشرين صلاة أريد بذلك التضعيف فغلبتني عيني، فأتاني آت فقال: يا محمد، قد صليت خمسا وعشرين صلاة، ولكن كيف لك بتأمين الملائكة؟
Muḥammad ibn Samāʿah (d. 233/848) the [ḥanafī jurist and] judge said: I spent forty years without missing the first Takbīr, except on one day in which my mother died, I missed one Ṣalāh in congregation, so I stood and performed twenty-five Ṣalāh seeking the multiple reward (of performing in congregation). Then my eyes overpowered me and a person came to me [in my dream] and said, O Muḥammad, you performed twenty-five prayers, however, how will you acquire the Āmīn of the angels [a benefit of congregational Ṣalāh] (Tārīkh Baghdad, 2:404)
For further details, read our Arabic treatise Dhakhīrat al-ʿUqbā fī al-Takbīrat al-Ūlā, which has been drafted in response to this question.
Allah knows best
24 Jumādā al-Ūlā 1440 / 30 January 2019
Approved by: Mufti Shabbir Ahmed and Mufti Muhammad Tahir