The Rulings of the Latecomer Recitation in Prayer
If a person catches up with the second rak`ah behind the Imam, should he recite a short Surah in the third rak`ah or not?
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying, “When the Iqamah are pronounced, do not come to it running, you should walk calmly with tranquility to join the congregation. Then join in what you catch for and complete what you miss.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
A latecomer or masbuq is the one who fails to join the Imam in the first rak`ah, or joins the prayer after ruku’ (bowing) of the first rak`ah. Therefore, if a latecomer is able to join the Imam before or in bowing, by then the rak`ah is counted and he does not have to make it after the tasleem. If he doesn’t catch the ruku` (bowing), the rak`ah is not counted.
Whatever the latecomer catches up with of the prayer with his Imam is regarded as the first part of his prayer. So if he catches up one rak`ah, it is regarded as being the first part of his prayer. So, he should stand up after the Imam says the tasleem and makes up what he misses. For example, if one joins the Imam in the last rak`ah of the Maghrib (sunset) Prayer, he should recite surat Al-Fatihah (the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an) and a short surah or some verses as it is the first rak`ah for him, if there is enough time to do so. After tasleem with the Imam and in the first rak`ah he makes up, he should recite Al-Fatihah and another surah or verses, because it is the second rak’ah for him. Then, when he stands up to make up the remaining rak`ah of Maghrib, he should recite Al-Fatihah only, because it is the third rak`ah for him. Then, he should sit and recite the final tashahhud. If what he misses of Maghrib iss one rak`ah, and he caught up with two rak`ahs with the Imam, then he should recite Al-Fatihah only in the last rak`ah that he makes up after finishing with the Imam, because it is the third rak`ah for him.
If it is a four-rak`ah prayer and he catches up with three or two rak`ahs with the Imam, then he should recite Al-Fatihah only in the one or two rak`ahs that he makes up, because that is the latter part of the prayer for him, so he does not have to recite another surah as well as Al-Fatihah. This is the correct scholarly view.