Holding the Mus'haf during Salah


{jb_quote}[7:204]So when the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.{/jb_quote}

Holding the Mus'haf (Qur'aan) duing Salah

Question: I have seen some people hold the Mus’haf of the Qur’aan during Salah and lead the congregation. There are also others who hold it while being led by an Imam who is reciting the Qur’aan from memory. What is the correct and Sunnah methodology on this practice?

When we consider the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, we find that practice of holding the Mus’haf of Qur’aan while leading or being lead (in Salah) to be a practice which contradicts the Sunnah and disturbs not only the ascribed Sunnah positions (i.e. how a Muslim is meant to position themselves in Salah) but also the tranquility in Salah. It should therefore be avoided. There are quotes given below which can be interpreted to permit conditional and limited use of the Mus’haf in extreme need by the Imam, these quotes clearly do not apply to the one who is following (in prayers), the distinction between the Imam and the follower (in prayers) should be kept in mind when reading the quotes. The detailed analyses from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah is as follows:

Evidence from the Qur'aan

When it comes to holding the Mus'haf (Qur'aan) during Salah either by the Imam or the Muqtadi (follower), there are two fundamental problems. The first being is that the face of the person engaged in Salah is meant to be facing the Qiblah, holding Mus'haf (Qur'aan) means that the person is unable to do so, the verse of the Qur’aan is as follows:

وَمِنۡ حَيۡثُ خَرَجۡتَ فَوَلِّ وَجۡهَكَ شَطۡرَ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدِ ٱلۡحَرَامِ‌ۖ وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَلۡحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ‌ۗ وَمَا ٱللَّهُ بِغَـٰفِلٍ عَمَّا تَعۡمَلُونَ

{jb_bluebox}So from wherever you go out [for prayer, O Muhammad] turn your face toward al- Masjid al-Haram, and indeed, it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do. [2:149]{/jb_bluebox}

Entire body must face Qiblah

During the prayers, the entire body must face the Qiblah (i.e. direction of the Kaa'bah). Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz (RA) [1910-1999] states in his Fatawa

يتوجه المصلي إلى القبلة وهي الكعبة أينما كان بجميع بدنه

{jb_bluebox}...The one who is praying must face the Qiblah (i.e. the Kaa’bah) from wherever he may be with all of his body...{/jb_bluebox}

Secondly, the person is meant to be concentrating on the Qur’aan, listening and paying attention. Holding Mus'haf (Qur'aan) and reading means that the person is focused on listening and following it on the Mus'haf (Qur'aan) which is a distraction and counter to the instructions of the Qur’aan and deprives one of the mercy of Allah, stated as follows:

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ فَٱسۡتَمِعُواْ لَهُ ۥ وَأَنصِتُواْ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُرۡحَمُونَ

{jb_bluebox}So when the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy [7:204]{/jb_bluebox}

Evidence from the Sunnah

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)'s Prayer

Muslims are commanded to follow and pray exactly and precisely like the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) as follows:

 وَصَلُّوا كَمَا رَأَيْتُمُونِي أُصَلِّي، فَإِذَا حَضَرَتِ الصَّلاَةُ فَلْيُؤَذِّنْ لَكُمْ أَحَدُكُمْ وَلْيَؤُمَّكُمْ أَكْبَرُكُمْ ‏‏‏

{jb_bluebox} Prophet (Peace be upon Him) said "...Pray as you have seen me praying and when it is the time for the prayer one of you should pronounce the Adhan and the oldest of you should lead the prayer. [Bukhari]{/jb_bluebox}

There is no evidence from the life of that he ever held a Mushaf while praying.

Fixing the gaze on the ground

It is the Sunnah of Prophet (Peace be upon Him) to fix the gaze at the point where the person will be prostrating (i.e at the ground). Moving the gaze away from this location and focusing on the Mus’haf is contrary to the Sunnah.

كان صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إذا صلى؛ طأطأ رأسه، ورمى ببصره نحو الأرض

{jb_bluebox} He (Peace be upon Him) used to incline his head during prayer and fix his sight towards the ground [Haakim]{/jb_bluebox}

أن عائشة كانت تقول: عجبا للمرء المسلم إذ دخل الكعبة حتى يرفع بصره قبل السقف يدع ذلك إجلالا لله وإعظاما، دخل رسول الله الكعبة ما خلف بصره موضع سجوده حتى خرج منها هذا

{jb_bluebox} Aisha (RA) said: “...The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) entered the Kaa’bah and his gaze did not go beyond the site of his prostration until he came out. [Ibn Khuzaimah]{/jb_bluebox}

Imam (the one who leads)

Muslims are commanded to select the one who has the most knowledge of the Qur’aan. How can someone be appointed as an Imam who doesn’t know how to recite the Qur’aan?

عن أبي مسعود الأنصاري قال : قال رسول صلى الله عليه وسلم :  يؤم القوم أقرؤهم لكتاب الله ، فإن كانوا في القراءة سواء فأعلمهم بالسنَّة

{jb_bluebox} The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) said: “The people should be led in prayer by the one who has most knowledge of the Book of Allah; if they are equal in knowledge of the Qur’aan, then by the one who has most knowledge of the Sunnah. [Muslim]{/jb_bluebox}

Muqtadi (the one who follows)

Muslims are instructed to arrange themselves behind the Imam for prayers according to level of knowledge and maturity. How can someone pray close to the Imam when they have little knowledge of the Qur’aan which requires them to hold the Mus’haf?

وعنه قال‏:‏ كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يمسح مناكبنا في الصلاة ويقول‏:‏ ‏ "‏استووا ولا تختلفوا، فتختلف قلوبكم، ليلني منكم أولو الأحلام والنهى، ثم الذين يلونهم‏"

{jb_bluebox} The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) would place his hands upon our shoulders when we would form rows for As-Salat (the prayer) and say, "Stand in straight rows and do not differ among yourselves, or else your hearts will differ due to disaccord. Let those be nearest to me who are mature and endowed with understanding (of the religion), then those who are nearest to them in these respects and then those who are nearest to them". [Muslim]{/jb_bluebox}

Companions (and Salaf) prohibited holding the Mus'haf during Prayer

The companions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) who learnt their religion and their prayer directly from Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) forbade holding the Mus’haf during prayer and there are numerous quotes attributed to them as follows:

Sayyiduna Umar (RA)

نهانا أمير المؤمنين عمر رضي الله عنه أن يؤم الناس في المصحف، ونهانا أن يؤمنا إلا المحتلم

{jb_bluebox}We were forbidden by Ameerul-Mumineen Sayyiduna Umar (RA) to have the Imam hold the Mus’haf while leading and for an immature (child) to lead in prayers. [Abi Dawud]{/jb_bluebox}

Sayyiduna Qatada (RA)

وعن قتادة رحمه الله عن سعيد بن المسيب في الذي يقوم في رمضان إن كان معه ما يقرأ به ليلة وإلا فليقرأ من المصحف

{jb_bluebox}If the one praying the night prayers, remembers a little then let him repeat it but don’t look inside the Mus’haf (during prayers).{/jb_bluebox}

Sayyiduna Ammar Ibn Yasir (RA)

عن عماربن ياسر كان يكره ان يوم الرجل الناس باليل في شهر رمضان في المصحف هو من فعل اهل الكتاب

{jb_bluebox} Khateeb Baghdadi (RA) has recorded that Sayyiduna Ammar Ibn Yasir (RA) used to dislike for someone to lead the people and to recite from the Mus’haf during prayers saying that it was the action of the people of the book.{/jb_bluebox}

Ibraheem (RA)

كانوا يكرهون أن يؤم الرجل في المصحف كراهية شديدة أن يتشبهوا بأهل الكتاب

{jb_bluebox}Aamash (RA) narrates that Ibraheem (RA) used to severely dislike reciting from the Mus’haf during the prayers because it has resemblance with the people of the book.{/jb_bluebox}

Mujahid and Layth (RA)

عن ليث (رح) عن مجاهد (رح)أنه كره أن يؤم الرجل في المصحف، ومر سليمان بن حنظلة بقوم يؤمهم رجل في مصحف في رمضان على مشجب فرمى به.وعن الشعبي أنه كره أن يقرأ الإمام في المصحف وهو يصلي.وقال سفيان يكره أن يؤم الرجل القوم في رمضان في المصحف أو في غير رمضان، يكره أن يتشبه بأهل الكتاب

{jb_bluebox}Sayyiduna Layth (RA) narrated from Mujahid (RA) that reciting from the Qur’aan during prayers is resemblance with the people of the book.{/jb_bluebox}

Qadhi Shareek (RA)

وحكي عن شريك أنه قال : ينظر في حال قيامه إلى موضع سجوده، وفي ركوعه إلى قدميه ، وفي حال سجوده إلى أنفه ، وفي حال التشهد إلى حجره

{jb_bluebox}Qadhi Shareek (RA) said that gaze should be fixed upon the place of prostration when standing, upon the feet during Ruku, upon the nose during prostration and upon the lap during Tashahhud{/jb_bluebox}

Opinions of Imams and notable Scholars

Imam Abu Haneefa (RA)


وَلَوْ قَرَأَ الْمُصَلِّي مِنْ الْمُصْحَفِ فَصَلَاتُهُ فَاسِدَةٌ عِنْدَ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ ، وَعِنْدَ أَبِي يُوسُفَ وَمُحَمَّدٍ تَامَّةٌ وَيُكْرَهُ وَقَالَ الشَّافِعِيُّ : لَا يُكْرَهُ

{jb_bluebox}If the one offering prayer recites from a Mushaf, then his prayer is invalidated according to Imam Abu Hanifa (RA). According to Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, [however], his prayer is valid but it is disliked. Imam Shafi’i (RA) states that it is not [even] disliked [Bada’i al-Sana’i]{/jb_bluebox}

Imam Malik (RA)

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الرَّبِيعِ ، قَالَ: أَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ , قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ مَالِكًا ، وَسُئِلَ عَمَّنْ يَؤُمُّ النَّاسَ فِي رَمَضَانَ فِي الْمُصْحَفِ , فَقَالَ: " لَا بَأْسَ بِذَلِكَ إِذَا اضْطُرُّوا إِلَى ذَلِكَ

{jb_bluebox}Ibn Wahab (RA) said that I heard (Imam) Malik (RA) say when he was asked about reciting the Qur’aan from the Mus’haf during Ramadhan that there is nothing wrong with it if there is no other alternative.{/jb_bluebox}

Imam Shaf'ae (RA)

The general opinion of Imam Shaf'ae (RA) is given that he regards this act to be permissable. However it is important to place this permission into context and it is explained by the following statement of Imam Nawawi (RA):

لو قرأ القرآن من المصحف لم تبطل صلاته سواء كان يحفظه أم لا ، بل يجب عليه ذلك إذا لم يحفظ الفاتحة

{jb_bluebox}If a person reads Qur’aan from the Mus'haf, this does not invalidate his prayer, whether he has memorized the Qur’aan or not; in fact that is obligatory if he has not memorized al-Fatihah.{/jb_bluebox}

Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal (RA)

When analyzed in full, it is similar to the opinion of Imam Malik (RA) and limited conditional permission is granted if there is no other alternative.

فَصْلٌ : قَالَ أَحْمَدُ : لَا بَأْسَ أَنْ يُصَلِّيَ بِالنَّاسِ الْقِيَامَ وَهُوَ يَنْظُرُ فِي الْمُصْحَفِ قِيلَ لَهُ : فِي الْفَرِيضَةِ ؟ قَالَ : لَا ، لَمْ أَسْمَعْ فِيهِ شَيْئًا . وَقَالَ الْقَاضِي : يُكْرَهُ فِي الْفَرْضِ ، وَلَا بَأْسَ بِهِ فِي التَّطَوُّعِ إذَا لَمْ يَحْفَظْ ، فَإِنْ كَانَ حَافِظًا كُرِهَ أَيْضًا . قَالَ وَقَدْ سُئِلَ أَحْمَدُ عَنْ الْإِمَامَةِ فِي الْمُصْحَفِ فِي رَمَضَانَ ؟ فَقَالَ : إذَا اُضْطُرَّ إلَى ذَلِكَ . نَقَلَهُ عَلِيُّ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ ، وَصَالِحٌ ، وَابْنُ مَنْصُورٍ  وَحُكِيَ عَنْ ابْنِ حَامِدٍ أَنَّ النَّفَلَ وَالْفَرْضَ فِي الْجَوَازِ سَوَاءٌ

{jb_bluebox}Ahmad said: There is nothing wrong will leading the people in praying qiyaam whilst looking at the Mus'haf. It was said to him: What about obligatory prayers? He said: I have not heard anything concerning that. Al-Qaadi said: It is makrooh in obligatory prayers, but there is nothing wrong with it in voluntary prayers if one has not memorized (Qur’aan), but if one has memorized Qur’aan then it is also makrooh. He said: Ahmad was asked about leading the prayers whilst reading from the Mus'haf in Ramadaan. He said: If that is necessary (it may be done) and it was narrated from Ibn Haamid that it is equally permissible in both naafil and obligatory prayers. [Al-Mughni]{/jb_bluebox}

Imam Ibn Hazm (RA)

ولا يحل لأحد أن يؤم وهو ينظر ما يقرأ به في المصحف، لا في فريضة ولا نافلة، فان فعل عالما بأن ذلك لا يجوز بطلت صلاته وصلاة من ائتم به عالما بحاله عالما بأن ذلك لا يجوز

{jb_bluebox}It is not permitted for a man to lead the salah who is looking into (and reciting) from the Mus’haf. It is neither permitted in the obligatory nor in the optional prayers. If a person commits this act (of leading) knowing that it is not permitted, his prayer will be invalidated. The prayer of the one who is following will also be invalidated if he becomes aware of the fact that the Imam is acting in a manner in contradiction to the conditions of prayers. [al-Muhallā] {/jb_bluebox}

Analysis of the counter evidence

Those who regard it permissible to hold the Mushaf quote the following tradition to support their argument. It is narrated by Imam Bukhari without a chain of transmission.

فقد كان لعائشة رضي الله عنها غلام يؤمها من المصحف في رمضان

{jb_bluebox}Aisha (RA) had a slave who used to lead her in prayer in Ramadaan, reading from the Mus'haf [Bukhari narrates it as mu’allaq]{/jb_bluebox}


وَعَنْ ابْنِ أَبِي مُلَيْكَةَ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يَأْتُونَ عَائِشَةَ بِأَعْلَى الْوَادِي هُوَ وَعُبَيْدُ بْنُ عُمَيْرِ وَالْمِسْوَرُ بْنُ مَخْرَمَةَ وَنَاسٌ كَثِيرٌ ، فَيَؤُمّهُمْ أَبُو عَمْرٍو مَوْلَى عَائِشَةَ وَأَبُو عَمْرٍو غُلَامُهَا حِينَئِذٍ لَمْ يُعْتَقْ

{jb_bluebox}Ibn Abi Mulaka (RA) narrates that him, Ubaid Ibn Umair (RA), Masoor Ibn Makhrama (RA) and many others used to come to visit Aisha (RA) and the slave of Aisha (RA) Abu Amr (RA) used to lead (them) in Salah and he had not been emancipated yet. [At-Talkheesul Habeer] {/jb_bluebox}

Thus multiple witnesses who prayed behind Abu Amr (RA) did not mention that he used to recite from the Musha f and this narration has the chain of transmission unlike the one quoted by Imam Bukhari (RA), which does not. 

Abu Amr (RA) and Zakwan (RA) are the same person as clarified by Imam Dhahabi (RA) as follows:

وَعَنْ ابْنِ أَبِي مُلَيْكَةَ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يَأْتُونَ عَائِشَةَ بِأَعْلَى الْوَادِي هُوَ وَعُبَيْدُ بْنُ عُمَيْرِ وَالْمِسْوَرُ بْنُ مَخْرَمَةَ وَنَاسٌ كَثِيرٌ ، فَيَؤُمّهُمْ أَبُو عَمْرٍو مَوْلَى عَائِشَةَ وَأَبُو عَمْرٍو غُلَامُهَا حِينَئِذٍ لَمْ يُعْتَقْ

Special circumstances

Even if we disregard the contradiction, scholars have ruled that this was a special case and special circumstances as stated by Shaykh Al-Albani (RA):

لا نري ذلك وما ذكر عن ذكوان حادثة عين لا عموم لها وباباحة ذلك لأمة المساجد يؤدي بهم الى ترك تعاهد القران والعناية بحفظه غيبا وهذا خلاف قول رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم تعاهدوا القرآن ، فوالذي نفسي بيده لهو أشد تفصيا من الإبل في عقلها ومعلوم ان للوسائل حكم الغايات كقولهم مالا يقوم الواجب الا به فهو واجب وما يؤدي الى معصية فهو معصية

{jb_bluebox}We do not consider it appropriate and correct. The incident of Aisha (RA) being led by Zakwan (RA) is a special case and has special circumstances and it is not the norm. If the (Imams) of the Mosques are given permission to do so then the due care and diligence which is taken to memorize and preserve the Qur’aan will slowly leave (us) and it is against the saying of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), “Preserve the Qur’aan. I swear by the One who holds my life that the Qur’aan is quicker in escaping from the hearts then the unties camels”. Scholars have states that the means also come under the same injunction as the outcome so the means to establish an (obligatory) act are also obligatory while the means to establish a sin are also a sin. [Fathur-Rahman] {/jb_bluebox}

Invalidation of prayer due to extraneous movement

There are scholars who accepted the narration of Aisha (RA) on face value but still commented that such an act is disliked due to extraneous movement in Salah such as Hafidh Ibn Hajr (RA) who stated:

واستدل به على جواز قراءة المصلي من المصحف ومنع منه آخرون لكونه عملا كثيرا في الصلاة

{jb_bluebox}The permissibility of reading from the mushaf in prayer has been drawn from this and some scholars forbade the practice due to the fact that it constitutes extraneous movements in the prayer [Fathul-Bari] {/jb_bluebox}


We now conclude the findings on this topic as follows:


{jb_bluedisc}1{/jb_bluedisc} There is no evidence from Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) or his companions ever reciting from the Mus'haf while praying.


{jb_bluedisc}2{/jb_bluedisc} The action of reciting from the Mus'haf while praying contradicts various established practises to be followed during Salah.


{jb_bluedisc}3{/jb_bluedisc} There is no permission to recite from the Mus'haf while praying during obligatory prayers.


{jb_bluedisc}4{/jb_bluedisc} There is no precedence to recite from the Mus'haf while praying for the one who is following in any Salah.


{jb_bluedisc}5{/jb_bluedisc} The narration of Aisha (RA) and her slave contradicts with other narrations regarding the same Imam and entails special circumstances.


{jb_bluedisc}6{/jb_bluedisc} Those wo have permitted for the Imam to recite from the Mus'haf while praying have done so during extreme circumstances.