Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is it right for a person to choose to pray at a mosque 7 kilometres away from his house and refuse to pray at a surau near his house? Hope for an explanation.
Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.
We begin with the statement of Allah SWT:
إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّـهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلَّا اللَّـهَ
“The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah,” 
The meaning of maintaining the mosque is following to perform worships in it in the framework to attain His blessings. Among them is to pray, dhikr to Allah and learn religious knowledge. Included in its meaning is by developing the mosque, taking care of it and protecting it.  A person is said to enliven the mosque if he always goes to the mosque. 
Other than that, there are certainly great advantages for those who perform the prayer in congregation. The Prophet PBUH said:
صَلاةُ الجَماعَةِ تَفْضُلُ صَلاةَ الفَذِّ بسَبْعٍ وعِشْرِينَ دَرَجَةً
“Prayer said in a congregation is twenty-seven degrees more excellent than prayer said by a single person.” 
Likewise, there are also rewards for those who walk to the mosque as stated in the hadith:
فإنَّ أحَدَكُمْ إذا تَوَضَّأَ فأحْسَنَ، وأَتى المَسْجِدَ، لا يُرِيدُ إلّا الصَّلاةَ، لَمْ يَخْطُ خَطْوَةً إلّا رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ بها دَرَجَةً، وحَطَّ عنْه خَطِيئَةً، حتّى يَدْخُلَ المَسْجِدَ
“When one of you performs ablution and does it well, then he comes to the mosque with no other motive but prayer and not seeking anything other than the prayer, he does not take one step but Allah raises him in status one degree thereby, and takes away one of his sins, until he enters the mosque. When he enters the mosque, he is in a state of prayer so long as he is waiting for the prayer.” 
Syeikh Hasan bin Ahmad al-Kaff has listed several advantages of congregational prayer, among them, are:
- Free and safe from the hellfire.
- Safe from the attribute of the hypocrite.
- His prayer is accepted.
- His sins are forgiven.
- Greatly rewarded.
- Remove the disease of doubt and protected from the shaytan. 
The Issue of Praying at a Mosque Far from One’s House
In answering the above question, we state the following:
Basically, performing prayer in a place with the most congregants and far away will be rewarded greater. This is in accordance with the hadith from Abi Musa al-Asya’wi RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
أَعْظَمُ النَّاسِ أَجْرًا فِي الصَّلاَةِ أَبْعَدُهُمْ فَأَبْعَدُهُمْ مَمْشًى، وَالَّذِي يَنْتَظِرُ الصَّلاَةَ حَتَّى يُصَلِّيَهَا مَعَ الإِمَامِ أَعْظَمُ أَجْرًا مِنَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي ثُمَّ يَنَامُ
“The one who will receive the greatest reward for prayer is he who lives farthest away, and he who has farthest to walk and he who waits for the prayer to observe it with the imam will have a greater reward than the one who observes it and then goes to sleep.” 
Imam al-Syaukani in commenting on this hadith states the greater the distance from his house to the mosque the greater the priority compared to a distance nearer to his house. 
Likewise, a hadith describes the advantages of praying in congregation. The hadith is narrated from Ibnu Umar RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
صَلاَةُ الْجَمَاعَةِ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلاَةِ الْفَذِّ بِسَبْعٍ وَعِشْرِينَ دَرَجَةً
“The prayer offered in congregation is twenty-seven degrees more rewardable than a prayer offered by a single person.” 
In the context of determining the necessity to enliven a mosque, Imam al-Syirazi stated in his book: “If near his house there is a mosque with fewer congregants, then it is better he goes there with the intention of increasing the congregant compared to attending a mosque with already a lot of congregants.” 
The same is stated by Imam al-Nawawi in his book where he outlines several guides as cited in his book:
It is prioritized to attend a mosque far from one’s house with more congregants compared to a near mosque with fewer congregants, except in two matters:
- If it will bring peace between the congregants and imam or if with his presence, then others will attend the mosque too. Hence, it is best if he goes to the mosque near his house with the intention of enlivening it.
- While it is prioritized to attend the mosque near his house if the mosque far away has an imam who is deviated, fasiq and isn’t mindful of the requisites of prayer. 
Ibnu Qudamah also stated in his book, citing the necessity to enliven the mosque or surau that is more in need of him as stated: “If in his surrounding area or other places of which the mosque doesn’t have any congregant except with his attendance, then his presence there is prioritized. The intention is to enliven and increase the congregants there.” 
According to the above question presented and considering the evidences and arguments, we should analyze the situation and condition of the mosque and surau. It can also be divided into several situations:
- If the surau near his house already has a lot of congregants, then it is prioritized for him to pray at the mosque.
- If the surau near his house doesn’t have a lot of congregants and in need for it to be enlivened, then it is best to pray at the surau.
Hence, it is best if we celebrate both places by going to both of them in turns if the surau already has a lot of congregants. The reason for this is so that one can attain the rewards of praying in a mosque and enliven the surau near his house. However, if the surau near his house doesn’t have a lot of congregants, then it is best for him to attend and enliven it.