An issue that caused argument in our local mosque is that, a man recited a verse “محمد رسول الله و الذين معه اشده علي الكفار…” and we said S.A.A.W…..but after prayer a man said it’s not right…although I have heard something like about a companion (r) that was corrected by the Prophet (s) because he said Alhamdulillah after sneezing during obligatory prayer…the man said since Allah is greater than His Prophet(s), so it is not right to say Solawat on the Holy Prophet when mentioned in recitation during obligatory prayer. I seek clarity on the issue from Sheikh Gabriel Haddad…(May Allah shower His goodness on you). My regards also to Maulana Hisham Kabbani.
The hadith in Sahih Muslim and elsewhere states that the man was corrected for saying “yarhamuka Allah” to someone who had sneezed, not “al-hamdulillah.”
As for saying al-hamdulillah after sneezing, it is recommended even inside Salat, as stated by Imam al-Nawawi in al-Tibyan.
As for invoking blessings on the Prophet inside prayer during the reading of the imam, in the same book al-Nawawi indicated that it is also permissible, on the basis of a reply by al-Sha`bi that one should invoke blessings on the Prophet (s) inside the prayer if the verse “Allah and His angels are blessing the Prophet...” is recited. Contemporaries have stated the same fatwa, especially if there is no impediment to hear the imam’s recitation while doing so; i.e. either with a soft voice, or in the heart, or by intending to invoke blessings more fully later. The same answer applies if the verse being read is any other that mentions the Prophet (s) explicitly or refers to him, such as the one cited in the question.
Note: if the imam mentions the verse “Allah and His angels are blessing the Prophet…” or mentions the Prophet in his khutba on Jumuah then the listener may make salawat out loud in the Shafi`i school.
And Allah knows best.
Hajj Gibril Haddad