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Detailed discussion about reciting behind the Imam during Salah

By Maulana Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf

The issue, whether to recite Surah Fatihah behind the Imaam or not, has been one of great controversy and dispute since early times. It is not just a petty argument regarding which is better and more virtuous, but it is a debate whether reciting Surah Fatihah is permissible or forbidden for the one performing Salaah behind the Imaam. For this reason it holds a very important place among the various issues regarding Salaah. As a result there have been numerous debates between the scholars and so many books and articles have been written about it.

Whereas issues like Raf-ul- Yadayn (The raising of hands in various postures of Salaah) are only arguments regarding which is more virtuous and which is the better of the two, the issue of qira 'ah behind the Imaam is more serious and is about whether the recitation is wajib (necessary) or haraam (forbidden).

Should anything be recited by the muqtadis once he begins his Salaah behind the Imaam? If yes, then in which Salaah, Sirri and Jahri, or in anyone of the two, and if no, then what is the answer for those ahadith that apparently seem to be in contradiction with this ruling. These are the areas which will be covered in the following study.

Opinions of the Ulama

Firstly, there is no difference of opinion in whether the imaarn and the munfarid have to read Surah F atihah or not. All Scholars are in agreement that both of them will do so and it will be read by them as an obligatory act. There is also unanimity that the muqtadi (a person following the Imaam) is exempted from reading the verses or chapters which are normally necessary to be recited by the Imaam or munfarid after Surah Fatihah.

However, the difference and controversy between the Ulama is regarding whether or not the muqtadis should recite Surah Fatihah when he is performing his Salaah behind the Imaam.

Imaam Malik and Imaam Ahmad: Both are of the view that the muqtadi is not required to recite Surah Fatihah in the Jahri Salaah (Salaah in which the Imaam recites aloud, Maghrib etc.), but he will have to read it in the Sirri prayers (silent prayers, Zuhr, Asr, etc.).

Imaam Shafi' ee's popularly known view is that it is necessary for the muqtadis to perform the qira 'ah of Surah Fatihah in both types of Salaah.fahri as well as Sirri. This view, although being the popular one is not necessarily his final jurisdiction. Careful study of his literature will reveal this to be his former opinion, as Ibn Qudamah states in his book Al-Mughni', 1 The words of lmaam Shafi'ee himself in his book AI-Umm, inform us that it is not necessary for the muqtadis to recite Surah Fatihah in the Jahri Salaah. However he still retains his opinion of the necessity to read it in the Sirri prayers. He writes in Kitabul- Umm, "And we say that every prayer performed behind the tmaam in which the Imaam reads in a tone that cannot be heard, then the muqtadis should perform the qira 'ah. " 2 Kitabul-Umm is one of lmaam Shafi'ee's later books as Hafiz Ibn Kathir in AI-Bidaayah-Wan-Nihaayah3 and Allamah Suyuti in Husnul-Muhadharah have affirmed. This proves the view understood from Kitabul-Umm to be the more recent one of Imaam Shafi'ee and therefore, obviously the more correct one.

This only leaves the Ghair Muqallideen, who still assert Surah Fatihah to be Fardh for the muqtadis to recite, even in the Jahri prayers. They are in an isolated position because even Daud Zahiri and Ibn Taymiyah are of the view that qira 'ah will not be performed in the Jahri prayers.

Imaam Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad all are unanimous in their verdict regarding this issue. They state, "It is forbidden for the muqtadis to recite any portion of the Holy Qur 'an, be it Surah Fatihah or any other verse, behind the Imaam in both Sirri and Jahri prayers. "

Whatever has been said about Imaam Muhammad holding a view of Surah Fatihah being more preferable in the Sirri prayer, is incorrect. Ibn Humaam has classified it as an erroneous accusation on Imaam Muhammad and says, "The truth is that Imaam Muhammad s opinion is the same as that ofImaam Abu Hanifah and Abu Yusuf"4

A few points are derived from the above review:

1.       No Imaam holds qira 'ah of Fatihah to befardh or necessary in the Jahri prayers.

2.       Some say it is necessary only in the Sirri prayers.

3.       The Hanafis have one common opinion only, that there will be no qira 'ah whatsoever to be performed by the muqtadis, It is this opinion which is found to be the closest to the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah, as will be proved in due course. InshaAllah.

Evidence from the Holy Qur'an

1.   "So, when the Qur 'an is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy [i. e. during the compulsory congregational prayers when the Imaam (of a mosque), is leading the prayer. ] "2


This verse of the Holy Qur'an, as one will find by merely understanding it, is sufficient proof that no qira 'ah whatsoever should be undertaken by the muqtadi and it makes it obligatory for him to remain silent and listen attentively whilst the Imaam's qira 'ah is in progress.

It states in Tanzim-ul-Ashtaat that the aayah is issuing two commands to the muqtadi: one to remain silent, this he will carry out in the Sirri prayer as well as in the Jahri prayers by remaining completely hushed: the second, to listen with concentration also, he will absolve in the Jahri prayers. What it means is that the muqtadi will maintain perfect silence in order to listen carefully to the recitation of his Imaam and leader in the Jahri prayers, and in the Sirri prayers he will also remain silent even though he is unable to hear the Imaam (due to the first command). Furthermore this aayah states very generally, "When the Holy Qur 'an is being recited (whether audibly or silently, whether one hears it or not), "it does not make any restrictions by stating in words such as, "Only when you hear the Qur'an," or "Only when the Qur'an is read aloud, then keep silent, otherwise not." Here again it is clear that the aayah means it is a must to maintain silence when in the Sirri prayers and if it is a Jahri Salaah then to listen with concentration is a requirement as well.

Now, because some people assert that this particular verse is not regarding silence in Salaah but was revealed regarding the maintenance of calmness in khutbah, it becomes necessary to bring reality to light. That is this verse was certainly revealed to command silence in Salaah and not only for khutbah. It is incorrect to say its revelation was only for the sermon and not for the Salaah also, due to a number of reasons. Hafiz Ibn Taymiyah writes in his Fataawaa,

"It comes to be understood from the predecessors that the verse was revealed regarding qira 'ah in Salaah and some have said, (it was revealed) regarding khutbah. Imaam Ahmad has stated a consensus (of the scholars) that it was revealed regarding prayer. " 6

 Ibn Qudamah writes in his book Al-Mughni,

"Imaam Ahmad states in a report from Abu Daud, 'The people are unanimous that this verse was revealed regarding Salaah. "7 Ibn Taymiyah also states,

"Ahmad has stated a consensus that qira 'ah is not necessary for the muqtadi when the Imaam is performing qira 'ah audibly. "8

Imaam Ahmad gives an even more detailed explanation as is reported in AI-Mughni,

Ahmad says, "We have never heard of any Muslim scholar asserting that if an Imaam reads aloud and the muqtadi observes silence, the muqtadi is Salaah is not valid. " He says, "This is Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam), the Companions and the Tabi 'een, this is Malik from the people ofHijaz, Thawri from the scholars of Iraq, Awza 'ee from the people of Syria and this is Laith from Egypt, none have said regarding the person whose Imaam recites and he does not that his Salaah is not valid. "9

Then Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim in their Tafseers and Imaam Bayhaqi in Kitabul-Qira 'ah have related a hadith from Mujahid, "This verse was revealed regarding some Companions of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) reciting behind the Imaam. "

Although, this report is mursal, (a narration in which a Tabi 'ee has reported directly from Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) without mentioning the Sahaabi in between) but being reported by Mujahid, who is known as 'Aa 'lamun-nas-bit-tafseer " meaning the most knowledgeable among people regarding tafseer, it will stand as sufficient evidence and will be accepted.

Also Ibn Jarir At Tabari relates another hadith from Yaseer Ibn Jabir regarding Hadhrat Ibn Mas' ood (RA), Ibn Mas' ood (RA) was performing Salaah when he heard a few people reading with the Imaam. Upon finishing he remarked, "Hasn't the time arrived for you to understand? Hasn't the time come for you to realise that when the Qur 'an is being recited, listen to it attentively and remain silent just as Allah has ordered you to?" 10

Hence all the aforementioned comments and statements justify the fact that the verse was revealed regarding Salaah and not only for khutbah. To further reinforce this fact it is worth knowing that this is a Makkan verse and Salaatul-Jumu 'ah was only made obligatory later on in Madinah, so in no way can this verse have been revealed regarding the maintenance of silence and calmness in khutbah only.

2.       "So recite as much of the Qur 'an as may be easy (for you). "11


This verse commands the recitation of absolutely any portion of the Holy Qur'an to be fardh in Salaah. It does not confine the obligation to Surah Fatihah only, like some have asserted. They say that as the verse is referring to Surah Fatihah, it must be read in Salaah by everyone because a hadith of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) states, "No Salaah is accepted without Surah Fatihah. "

The clever way in which they manage to link the hadith to the verse is by designating the word 'Maa' in the verse to be an indefinite term whilst taking the hadith for its commentary. This brings the sentence of the Holy Qur'an, in this way, to mean, "Recite Surah Fatihah in Salaah (by obligation)." The problem is that this type of an interpretation can only be made due to the ignorance of the rules of jurisprudence.

That is because, in reality the word 'Maa' in this context is not an indefinite term at all, but is 'Aam' (a general term). By taking this context it will allow any portion of the Holy Qur ' an to be recited in prayer and will not restrict it to Fatihah only. In this way, the verse will come to mean, "Recite whatever is possible for you to recite" which is more correct because by confining it to Surah Fatihah only it would abrogate the general nature ofthe aayah and keep it restricted which is incorrect.

The Hanafis thus combine the two and conclude that to recite Reciting Behind the Imaam any part of the Holy Qur' an will be fardh due to the aayah and to recite Surah Fatihah will be classified as wajib because of the hadi th. The imaarn and munfarid will have to recite Surah Fatihah along with some other verses and the muqtadis will not read at all. Although it is necessary for the muqtadi to read his Imaam's qira 'ah will suffice, because the muqtadi has been commanded to remain silent by the former aayah. The concept of the imaarn's qira 'ah absolving the muqtadi s obligation will be explained further under hadith number five Insha Allah.

3.       "And say your prayer neither aloud rmr in a low voice, but follow a way between. "12


Ibn Abbas ~ relates regarding the conditions for the revelation of this aayah,

This aayah was revealed whilst Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) was in hiding in Makkah. He would lead the Companions in prayer and read loudly. When the mushrikeen (polytheists) would hear the recitation, they would criticise the Holy Qur' an, they would criticise and swear at the one who revealed it (Allah) and abuse the one who brought it (Muhammad ~). Thus Allah ordered Rasoolullah ~, "And say your prayer neither aloud that the polytheist hear your recitation and nor in a low voice but let the believers hear you. "13  

In this verse Allah commanded his Prophet to recitein a sufficiently loud enough tone so the Companions behind him could hear. Allah said, "Let them hear it." This was only possible if they helped by remaining silent enough to listen. Thus the verse proves that qira 'ah is the responsibility of the imaarn. He should read loud enough whilst leading the congregational prayers and the muqtadis should remain silent and listen and not busy themselves in reciting.

Now we move on to the ahadith. They are also in conformation with the commands issued by the verses above.

Evidence From Ahadith

1. Abu Sa' eed AI Khudri 4), narrates, "Rasoolullah iJJdelivered a sermon in which he outlined our sunnah for us, taught us our Salaah and instructed, "When you perform your Salaah straighten your rows then one of you lead the rest in prayer. When he says the takbeer you also say it, when he recites remain silent and when he reaches 'Ghayril maghdhubi alayhim waladhalleen ' say aameen and Allah will accept your plea. " 14

2. Abu Hurayrah ~ narrates, "Rasoolullah iJJinformed, 'The Imaam has been appointed to be followed. Thus, when he says the takbeer, you also say it, when he recites, remain silent and when he says, 'Samialla huliman hamidah 'say, 'Rabbana lakal hamd. "15

These two ahadith give a better explanation of verse number one mentioned above and has distinguishes between the obligation of the Imaam and the muqtadi. Where it commanded the muqtadi to follow the Imaam in saying the takbeer and performing the rukus etc. it did not command him to recite Surah Fatihah with the Imaam also, instead it ordered him to remain silent This proves the fact that if reciting was necessary for the muqtadi, Rasoolullah ~ would never have ordered the contrary. Therefore qira 'ah is the fardh of the Imaam and the fardh of the muqtadi is to remain silent and listen.

It is understood from the hadith that the only time the muqtadi is permitted to utter anything is when the Imaam reaches 'Waladhalleen '. At this point he should say aameen and the reason for him saying aameen is to strengthen and endorse the request which the Imaam has made to Allah in Surah Fatihah.

Surah Fatihah, after beginning with praises of the Lord of the Universe, becomes a request the servant makes to Allah. The servant humbly asks, Reciting Behind the Imaam "Guide us to the straight way, the way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, not (the way) of those who earned your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians). "16

If it had been necessary for all the muqtadis to recite Surah Fatihah also, they would have been ordered to say aameen at the end of it. Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) has however ordered it to be said jointly at the termination of the Imaam's Fatihah.

One other point derived from this hadith is from the words, "The Imaam has been designated to be followed." Apparently Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) is explaining the reason for the command he has issued regarding the muqtadis having to remain silent. This is because it is obligatory for the muqtadi to listen to his Imaam's qira 'ah. If he is to also begin reciting, it will be taken as an opposition on his side of his leader. His own reciting will deem it quite improbable for him to also lend an ear to the Imaam.

Now the next hadith will expound in greater detail as to why the muqtadi is exempted from reading and specifically how his obligation is absolved by the Imaam.

4.       Jabir (RA) narrates, "Whoever has an Imaam then his Imaam�s qira 'ah is (sufficient) for him. "17


This hadith has also been related by Imaam Muhammad With a slight variation in the wording.  

5.       Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) informed, "Whoever prays behind the Imaam. the qira 'ah of the Imaam is qira 'ah for him (meaning it is sufficient for him). "18


The following hadith explains this with even more detail.

6.       Abdullah Ibn Shaddad relates that, "Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) lead the Asr Salaah. A person began reading behind him so another person close to him gave him a nudge. When he finished the Salaah, he asked, 'Why did you nudge me?' The second person replied, 'Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) was in front of you therefore I did not approve of you reciting behind the Imaam. 'Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) heard this and said 'Whoever has an Imaam, the qira'ah of the Imaam is enough for him "19

7.       A person asked Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam), "0 Prophet of Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)! Is there qira 'ah in every Salaah?" Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) replied, "Yes!" Somebody from amongst the people said, "(That means) it is necessary. "Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) replied, "I understand that the Imam�s qira 'ah is sufficient (for the muqtadis). "20


All the above ahadith containing the words "The Imaam s qira 'ah is sufficient for the followers. " Have completely and totally clarified the fact that the muqtadi will not read. The reason for it simply is that the Imaam's qira 'ah is sufficient for him. It has to be. If the muqtadi was also to begin reciting, how would he fulfil his real obligation of remaining silent and listening?

Ibn Taymiyah writes in his Fataawaa, 'The qira 'ah of the Imaam is sufficient for the muqtadis: The consensus of the Sahaabah and the Tabi 'een prove it. The ahadith proving it are narrated musnadan as well as mursalan. The fataawaa of the Tabi 'een were also that the qira 'ah is sufficient and the greatest thing is that it is in complete accordance with the Holy Qur 'an and the Sunnah. '21

The following ahadith will justify the fact that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) has even expressed disapproval regarding qira 'ah behind the Imaam.

7. Abu Hurayrah (RA) narrates that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) turned around (to us) after finishing a Salaah in which he had recited aloud. He asked, "Did anyone read along with me just now." A person replied, "Yes, 0 Prophet of Allah. " Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, "I was wondering what was the matter with me that 1 am having to struggle in (reciting the) Qur 'an. " When the people heard that from him they discontinued reading with Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) during those prayers in which he used to recite loudly. 22

In Imran Ibn Husain's narration he expresses displeasure as well,

8.       Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) was performing the Zuhr prayer when a person began to recite, 'Sabbihisma rabbikal aa 'la' (a surah of the Qur ' an) behind him. Upon completing his prayers, Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) asked, "Which one of you was reading?" A person answered, "I was. "Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) replied, "I thought one of you was contending with me in the recitation. "23

9.       One other hadith informs us that it caused him confusion. Abdullah Ibn Mas' ood (RA) narrates that the Companions would recite behind Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) so Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, "You have caused me confusion in reciting the Holy Qur 'an. "24

These ahadith are concrete evidence that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) was not too happy about the people reciting" behind the Imaam. It is also clear that the Sahaabah were not reciting very loudly either as this would be classified as complete disrespect, which is impossible to attribute to people of the Sahaabah s calibre. Therefore although they recited in subdued voices Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) still rebuked them because it caused a disturbance in his reciting.

The same type of disturbance is bound to occur whether the muqtadi s attempts to read only Surah Fatihah and nothing else or ifhe reads some other verses with it. In both instances it is possible that the Imaam may be driven to confusion. This means that the command will accommodate the Jahri prayers along with the Sirri prayers in its prohibition, so the prohibition will be totally general.

Words of the Sahaabah (RA)

Allamah Ayni writes in Umdatul Qari, his commentary of Sahih Al-Bukhari, that it was the opinion of approximately eighty Companions not to do qira 'ah behind the Imaam. Some were also very strict in implementing and enforcing this view. A few of their reports and comments are related here to understand the seriousness of this issue and to discover the stance of the Sahaabah.

1.       Ataa Ibn Yasaar (RA) inquired from Zaid fun Thabit (RA) regarding qira'ah with the Imaam. He answered, "There is no qira 'ah with the Imaam. "25

2.       Malik reports from Nafi' that Abdullah Ibn Umar es, was asked whether anyone should read behind the Imaam or not. He replied, "Whenever anybody performs Salaah behind the Imaam the qira 'ah of the Imaam is sufficient for him but when he prays alone then he should recite (himself). " The narrator says that, Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA) did not perform qira 'ah behind the Imaam.' 26

3.       Ubaydullah Ibn Muqsim narrates that he asked Abdullah Ibn Umar, Zaid Ibn Thabit and Jabir Ibn Abdillah (RA) (regarding this issue). They told him that in no Salaah should anyone perform qira 'ah behind the Imaam.' 27


See the amount of disapproval expressed in the next statement:

4.       Alqamah relates that Abdullah Ibn Mas' ood (RA) said, "If only the mouth of the person reading behind the Imaam would be filled with soil (rubble). 28

5.       Abu Jamrah says, "1 asked Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA), 'Shall I recite when the Imaam is infront of me? , He replied, 'No." 29

6.       Ibn Abbas (RA) informs that the qira 'ah of the Imaam is sufficient for you whether he recites silently or aloud." 30

7.       Moosa Ibn Aqabah informed that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam), Hadhrat Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (RA) would prohibit reciting behind the Imaam.? 31

8.       Moosa Ibn Sa'ad Ibn Zaid Ibn Thabit narrates from his grandfather that he said; "Whoever recites behind the Imaam there is no Salaah for him. " 32

9.       Ibraheem Nakh'ay says, "The first action innovated (in the religion) was qira 'ah behind the Imaam. The Sahaabah did not recite behind the Imaam. " 33


 This is further strengthened by the following:

10.   Ibraheem An Nakh'ay states, "The first person to read behind the Imaam was an accused person (an innovator). " 34


Then Muhammad Ibn Sireen tells us,


11.   "I do not recognise qira 'ah-khalfal-Imaam to be from the sunnah. "35

12.   Abdullah Ibn Zaid Ibn Aslam reports from his father that ten Companions of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) adamantly prohibited qira 'ahkhalfal-Imaam: Abu Bakr Siddique, Umar Farooq, Uthman Ibn Affan, Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, Abdur rahman Ibn Auf, Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdullah Ibn Mas' ood, Zaid Ibn Thaabit, Abdullah Ibn Umar and Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA). 36

13.   Hadhrat Ali (RA) states, "Whoever recites behind the Imaam, his Salaah is not valid. " In another hadith he says, "He has deviated from the correct disposition (nature). "37

14.   Sa'ad (RA) says, "I would like a burning ember to be in the mouth of the one who recites behind the Imaam. "38


What does Umar Ibnul Khattab say?

15.   He says, "If only there could be a stone in the mouth of the one who recites behind the Imaam. " 39


Such great and exalted Companions of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) who were scholars as well, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdillah Ibn Umar, Jabir Ibn Abdullah, Abdullah Ibn Mas' ood, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdur Rahman Ibn Auf and great Tabi 'een like Muhammad Ibn Sireen, Ibraheem Nakh'ay and Awza'ee, etc., all echo the same words, 'There will be no qira 'ah for the muqtadi behind the Imaam. " Some of them were known to strictly enforce their view as well and others even said qira 'ah-khalfal-tmaam was an innovation. Comments and statements like, "May the reciter�s mouth be filled with embers or stones, " and other statements of that nature, coming from people of their status, point towards the seriousness of this issue. They have even gone as far as to say there will be no Salaah for whoever reads behind the Imaam. All this is in accordance to what the Hanafis say, "Do not recite behind the Imaam because the Imaam s qira 'ah is sufficient. "

What does Common Sense say?

'1. The Imaam, like everybody else, has been commanded to recite Surah Fatihah but unlike others, he has also been ordered to let his muqtadis hear his recitation during the Jahri prayers. The only way they are able to listen, is by remaining silent. If they are to become engrossed in reciting as well, they will be unable to concentrate on the Imaam's qira 'ah and this will in effect mean that the Imaam has been ordered by the Shari 'ah to read to a congregation who do not pay any attention to his recitation. It is not logical at all that the Shari 'ah issue such an order.

2. As mentioned earlier, part of Surah Fatihah constitutes a request which the reciter makes whilst reading it. Everybody makes this invocation for themselves except the muqtadis in whose case the Imaam does it for them. Now as in a typical everyday situation, a group of people intending to submit a request or an appeal to a prime minister or president, etc., would not all do so individually but they would instead designate an individual as their representative or ambassador. He would undertake to fulfil all the obligations and required formalities. In return the group would not interfere with his actions as long as he follows the correct procedures. If some do-gooder was to interfere he would be frowned upon and maybe even regarded as ignorant and disrespectful.

The same is the situation of the Imaam who beseeches the Lord on behalf of his followers in the court of Almighty Allah. They remain silent and listen to him. Yes, once he completes his invocation and supplication, they endorse it by saying aameen just Reciting Behind the Imaam as the aforementioned group would do so with their petitions and signatures, etc.

3. The qira 'ah which one is obliged to perform in Salaah is broken down into two categories, the first being Surah Fatihah and the second being the chapters or verses one is required to recite following Surah Fatihah. As you know, it has been mentioned before that none of the ulama say, "The muqtadi is obliged to recite the verses of the second category, " instead they state that, "The Imaam s qira 'ah is enough and sufficient for them. " Why then should some ulama say that Surah Fatihah, meaning category one is necessary for the muqtadi to recite while the second one is not? Just as the qira 'ah by the Imaam, of the second category .is sufficient for the muqtadi according to consensus category one, meaning Surah Fatihah should also hold the same command and the Imaam's qira 'ah should be sufficient.

4. If a person who, being delayed for some reason, arrives and finds the Imaam in ruku, the procedure he has to follow in order to join the congregation is that he will first say the takbeer, remain standing for a short while, if even for a second, then join the Imaam in ruku. This rak 'ah of his will be understood to be acquired. He will not have to perform an extra rak 'ah at the end to make up for this one.

Every scholar will agree that ifhe missed takbeer or qiyaam, this rak 'ah of his would be classified as a missed one which he would have to complete at the end. However, no scholar's opinion is of the persons rak 'ah not being accepted because he has failed to read Surah Fatihah. This proves that Surah Fatihah in reality is notfardh for the muqtadis whereas the takbeer and qiyaam are. It also proves that the Imaam's qira 'ah is sufficient for him.

5. If the Imaam makes a mistake in Salaah, all the muqtadis will perform the sajda-tut-sahw with him and when he reads an aayah of sajdah, the muqtadis will perform the sajda-tut-tilaawat also, although it may be in the midst of a Sirri prayer in which they do not even hear him recite. Likewise, if a single sutrah of the Imaam can be sufficient for the whole congregation, so why then should the Imaam's qira 'ah not be sufficient for them all as well?

Correct Analysis of the Seemingly Contradicting Ahadith Regarding this Issue

There are a number of ahadith, sahih as well as weak, which apparently seem to be in contradiction to the verses and ahadith mentioned earlier. Due to these some scholars have even attempted to prove that qira 'ah-khalfal-Imaam is obligatory.

For all these ahadith there is an innumerable supply of evidence which clears away the doubts, misconceptions and misinterpretations concerning them and brings out their meaning to be in complete harmony to the meaning of the former ahadith.

This section will comprise of only a few important and comprehensive points of evidence and interpretation in number form, as it would probably take a whole book to mention them all. However at the end of the book, the names of beneficial and more informative books will be mentioned for those who want to delve deeper into more intricate details and finer points.

1. Ubadah fun Samit (RA) narrates that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, "There is no Salaah for the one who does not read Surah Fatihah. " In one other narration he says, "There is no Salaah for the one who does not read Surah Fatihah and some other verses. "

This is a sahih hadith which is usually used to prove the qi ra 'ah of Surah Fatihah to be fardh for the muqtadi also. However if this hadith is analysed and interpreted correctly it will turn out to be in complete agreement with the verses and ahadith of the Hanafi's evidence and no contradiction whatsoever will remain.

This can be done in a number of ways. They are as follows:

(i) The Imaam and the muqtadi are both obliged to recite Surah Fatihah according to this hadith because it seems to be issuing a totally general command, which includes the muqtadi also in its jurisdiction. The, Hanafis do not reject this, but say that this necessity of the muqtadi will be absolved by the Imaam's Reciting Behind the Imaam recitation, because Rasoolullah ~ has also said that the Imaam's qira 'ah is the qira 'ah of the muqtadi also. Thus, it will be taken that the muqtadi has fulfilled the responsibility placed on him by the hadith.

(ii) Since the muqtadi has been commanded by the Holy Qur'an along with other sahih ahadith to remain silent and listen, he will be excluded from this obligation and the hadith will be interpreted as issuing a command to the Imaam and munfarid only.

(iii) Some sahih ahadith (which have been presented earlier) have prohibited the muqtadi from reciting. Thus he will be exempted from this particular hadith's obligation. The obligation of this hadith will be for the munfarid and Imaam only.

(iv) The first narration has only mention of Surah Fatihah and the second one also has the word 'fasaidan' meaning 'and extra'. What is strange here is that those scholars who assert Surah Fatihah to be necessary for the muqtadi at the same time do not oblige him to read anything more than that, whereas both S urah Fatihah along with some extra verses, are mentioned in the same hadith under the same context, as being necessary. Thus whatever reason and explanation they have for not rendering the extra verses obligatory for the muqtadi, will also be our reason for not making both things necessary for him. The only difference will be that we have taken the full hadith into consideration and issued the same order for both Surah Fatihah and the extra verses, that they will both be absolved for the muqtadi by his Imaam's reciting and they have only made Fatihah necessary, leaving the extra verses as unnecessary. If the explanations that the Imaam's reading the extra portion is sufficient for the muqtadi, then we too have been saying that the Imaams recitation of both is sufficient for the muqtadi as hadith number three clarifies to us.

(v) This hadith is certainly not ordering the muqtadi, but is commanding the Imaam and the munfarid to recite Surah Fatihah. This is exactly what a Companion of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) says in the next hadith.1maam Tirmizi has narrated the hadith of Hadhrat Jabir (RA) with a sahih transmission, in which he states, "Whoever performed a rak 'ah in which he did not recite Surah Fatihah, then it is as though he has not performed it, unless he was behind the Imaam. " 40

This clearly proves that the command in the hadith is not for the muqtadi. Imaam Tirmizi also mentions the comment ofImaam Ahmad, regarding the above hadith.

"This is a Companion of Rasoolullah � who has interpreted the following words of Rasoolullah, 'There is no Salaah for the one who did not recite Surah Fatihah. ' to mean that this is the case only when the person is alone. "41

Who can explain the meaning of a hadith better than a close Companion of Rasoolullah (RA)?

2. Ubadah Ibnus Samit ea narrates, "We were performing the Fajr Salaah behind Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam). He began reciting but found it difficult to read, so upon finishing he asked, 'You probably recite behind the Imaam?' We replied, 'Yes, 'Oh Prophet of Allah. ' Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, 'Do not recite anything except Surah Fatihah, because there is no Salaah for the one who has not recited it. "

Abu Daud, Tirmizi and Nasai have narrated similar reports and in a narration of Abu Daud it says, "Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) exclaimed, 'What s wrong with me that they contend with me in the recitation of the Qur 'an. Do not recite any part of the Holy Qur 'an whilst I am reciting aloud, except Surah Fatihah. "42 that a muqtadi does not have to perform any qira 'ah other than Surah Fatihah which is necessary.

There are a number of reasons why this hadith will either not be accepted in this meaning or it will be completely waived:

(i) There is a Muhammad Ibn Ishaaq in the chain of narrators regarding whom, although some have said 'trustworthy', but most ofthe A 'imma-tur-Rijaal have directed great criticism on him. Sulayman At Taymi and Hisham have been reported to have called him a Kazzab and Imaam Malik has been reported to have labelled him Dajjal from amongst the Dajjals. Ibn Zaheer, Wahhaab Ibn Khalid, Jarir Ibn Abdil Hamid and Daru Qutni etc., also have grave statements to make about him. Therefore it will be completely unfair to accept such a transmission.

(ii) Secondly, the transmission is full of confusion. Sometimes Makhool relates the hadith from Muhammad Ibn Rabee' and at times from Nafi' Ibn Mahmood, to mention just a few. With regards to Nafi' Ibn Mahmood, scholars, such as Ibn Abdil Barr, Tahawi and Ibn Qudamah state that he is unknown. Due to the fact that there is a multitude of other ahadith regarding this issue which have an unblemished history, therefore, the need for employing such ahadith (like the one being discussed) is eliminated when it falls in contradiction with them.

(iii) It could also be argued that this hadith is ma '1001 and also said to be mawquf upon Ubadah Ibn Samit (RA) and not marfu '. Ibn Taymiyah explains in detail,

"This hadith is ma 'lool according to the muhadditheen for a number of reasons. Imaam Ahmad and others have said it is weak. A detailed explanation regarding its weaknesses has been mentioned at another point (in the same book) and it has been clarified there that the actual sahih hadith of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) is, 'There is no Salaah without the Ummul Qur 'an. 'It has been transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim and Zuhri has related it from Ubadah (RA) through Muhammad Ibn Rabee. ' As for this hadith (number two which is currently In the second narration of Tirmizi he reports, Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) performed the Fajr Salaah but the reciting proved difficult for him so when he finished he said, "1 see you reading behind your Imaam!" We replied, "Yes, by Allah. " Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) ordered, "Do not read anything except the Ummul Qur 'an because there is no Salaah for one who does not recite it. "

The apparent wording of this hadith in its various forms indicate  under analysis), some Syrians have made a mistake in it. The reality is that Ubadah Ibn Samit (RA) was the Imaam of Bay tuI Maqdis at the time he related this hadith. The Syrians confused it (mistook it) to be marfu', whereas it was mawquf on Ubadah (RA) only. "43

For Imaam Ibn Taymiyah to say this, it has to be taken for what it is. Thus, this hadith will not stand as any evidence whatsoever.

(iv) If we were, for a moment, even to accept this hadith to be sahih, then Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) using words like, "You probably recite behind the Imaam," indicate that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) had not instructed its recital and neither was it done with his approval. Furthermore, as only some Companions replied in the positive when asked if they read behind the Imaam, it proves that it was not an act commonly and generally done by all the Sahaabah and even those who did do it were probably unaware of the prohibition.

(v) Subject this hadith to a grammatical analysis, and you will discover that the hadi th can not stand as evidence for rendering the recitation of Surah Fatihah necessary on the muqtadis. The reason for this is that according to the rules of grammar, the word 'Laa' (in the narration) is a negative imperative and whatever is excluded from its prohibition (by using the word 'lllaa ') will only remain permissible and it will not be classified as obligatory. As Surah Fatihah has been excluded along these lines, it will remain merely permissible and not necessary. In the earlier days of Rasoolullah's (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) era, it did remain permissible for some time, but then it became totally forbidden and the Sahaabah ceased reciting it behind the Imaam, as ahadith numbers one and two explain.

3. Abu Hurayrah (RA) narrates that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, "Whoever performs a Salaah in which he does not read the Ummul Qur 'an, then his Salaah is incomplete. " The transmitter of the hadith asked Abu Hurayrah (RA), "I am sometimes behind the Imaam (so Reciting Behind the Imaam what should I do)?" Abu Hurayrah (RA). instructed, "Recite it in your mind. " 44

There are two segments of this hadith: the first is marfu' in which Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) himself stresses the importance of Surah Fatihah The second is a statement of Abu Hurayrah (RA). It is from this second section that the necessity of Surah Fatihah behind the Imaam, has been attempted to be proven.

The first section of this narration is quite similar to hadith number one (which was analysed a short while back, which has just passed along with the various answers given regarding it). Hence, all the reasons explained under it will also be in effect here. The main answer and explanation is, "The qira 'ah of the Imaam is sufficient for the muqtadis, "therefore, the muqtadis is automatically fulfilling his obligation of Fatihah.

The second part of the hadith will be explained as follows:

1. It is mawquf due to the fact that Abu Hurayrah (RA) said it himself and has not related it from Rasoolullah sg, Thus, it will not be accepted because it being only a mawquf narration, falls in contradiction to other sahih marfu ' ahadith, which are more supenor.

2. The words, 'Fee Nafsik' actually mean, 'Read it in your mind, brood over it, and do not express it by mouth.' No doubt, if the muqtadi concentrates on his Imaam's recital he will also go through it in his mind.

3. These same words could also be translated to mean, 'Recite it when you are performing Salaah individually.' and a Hadithul-Qudsi, which contains a similar Arabic context, supports this translation. Allah says,

"If the servant remembers me while he is alone (the actual words are fee nafsihi), I similarly remember him and if he remembers me in a gathering then I remember him as well in a gathering much better than his. "

The opposite of being with a group of people in a gathering is being alone. Thus, the meaning of what Abu Hurayrah (RA) stated will be that, 'Only when you are performing Salaah separately, should you recite Surah Fatihah.' In this way the words 'Fee Nafsik' will be taken to mean, 'When you are alone'.

After reaching the end of the analyses, it can be now concluded, quite easily and confidently, that due to the overwhelming evidence in the Hanafi's favour, they have the most correct opinion. The understanding acquired from the verses of the Holy Qur'an and the vast number of ahadith is that the muqtadi has two obligations to fulfil, which are that he remain silent and listen carefully. The qira 'ah which is undertaken by the Imaam is classified by the ahadith as totally sufficient for the muqtadis.

Since verse number one, actually prohibits that any word be uttered or said whilst the recitation of the Qur'an is taking place, it will be accepted as a prohibition and the muqtadi will maintain perfect silence, whether it be a sirri or a Jahri prayer. There should now remain no unsettled question as to why the muqtadi should remain silent, even in a Sirri prayer when he is unable to hear his Imaam's qira 'ah anyway. It has been explained before that verse number one contains two commands: one of them being the maintenance of silence which will be carried out in the Sirri prayers.

The Hanafi school of thought takes all these points into consideration and eventually come up with an opinion that encompasses all the various aspects of the ahadith and thus this opinion can be concluded to be the closest to the Qur ' an and Sunnah.

1. AI Mughni 601:1

2. Kitabul Umm 153:7 *

3. AI Bidaayah wan Nihaayah 252:10

4. Fathul Mulhim 20:2

5. AI Qur'an 204:7

6. Fataawaa269:23

7. AI Mughni 601: 1

8. Fataawaa269:23

9. AI Mughni602:1

10. I'la'us Sunan 43:4, Tabari 378:11

11. AI Qur'an 20:73

12. AI Qur'an 110:17

13. At Ta'liq-us-Sabeeh 366:1, Muslim

14. Muslim 174:1

15. Abu Daud 96: 1, Nasai 46

16. AI Qur'an 5-7: 1

17. AI Jawharun Naqih 159:2, I'Ia'us Sunan 61:4, Ibn Abi Shaybah 377:1

18. Umdatul Qari 12:3, Muwatta Muhammad 96, I'Ia'us Sunan 61:4

19. Muwatta Muhammad 98, I'Ia'us Sunan 70:4

20. Majma-uz-Zawaa'id 110:2

21. Fataawaa271:23

22. Tirmizi 71:1, Malik51, Nasai 146:1, Abu Daud 146:1, lbn Majah 61, Bayhaqi 157:2

23. Muslim 172:1, I'Ia'us Sunan 56:4

24. Majma-uz-Zawaa'id I 10:2, AI Jawharun Naqih 162: 1

25. Muslim 215:1

26. Malik 51, I'la'us Sunan 76:4 

27. Aathaarus Sunan 116:1, I'la'us Sunan 81:4 

28. Aathaarus Sunan 116:1, I'la'us Sunan 81:4 SUDaD87:4

29 Aathaarus Sunan 116:1, I'la'us Sunan 81:4 9.

30 Darn Qutni 331: 1. I'la'us Sunan 82:4

31 Umdatul Qari 67:3 ", II'la'us Sunan 84:4

32 MuwattaMuharnmad 100, I'la'us Sunan 87:4

33 AI Jawharun Naqih 169:4

34. Muwatta Muhammad 100, I'Ia'us Sunan 89:4

35. Ibn Abi Shaybah 377: 1, I'Ia'us Sunan 90:4

36. Qalaa'idul Azhaar 42:2  

37. AI Jawharun Naqih218:2, IbnAbi Shaybah376:1

38. Abdur Razzaq 138:2, Ibn Abi Shaybah 376:2

39. Abdur Razzaq 128:2

40. Tinnizi 71: 1

41. I'Ia'us Sunan 75:4

42. Mishkat 81: 1 from Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Nasai

43. Fataawaa287:23

44. Tirmizi 71: 1


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