How should a muallaf who has yet to memorize Surah al-Fatihah perform his prayer?
When a non-Muslim embraces Islam, it is obligatory for him to learn the procedure of prayer and perform it according to his capability as a person who has just learned Islam. Originally, the two recitations that is obligatory to be recited in prayer is Surah al-Fatihah, tasyahhud and praise and salutations to the Prophet PBUH. While all the other recitations are sunnah. For a muallaf, we think that there are several main procedures that can be followed if he hasn’t memorized Surah al-Fatihah. For further discussion, please refer to al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah, p. 217; al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafie, 1/255-256; Nihayat al-Muhtaj, 1/484-485; Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/357-358; al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/374.
- If he is able to recite it by reading it but hasn’t memorized it yet, it is permissible for him to hold a piece of paper with Surah al-Fatihah printed on it. Or it is saved in his smartphone, tab and others so that it will be easy for him to recite it when praying.
- If he is able to recite it but hasn’t fully memorized it, then it is obligatory for him to recite it according to his capability and he has to repeat his recitations.
- If he is unable to read it and hasn’t memorized it but he is able to repeat the recitation of others, then it is suggested for the muallaf to be helped by a facilitator who is able to recite Surah al-Fatihah properly. For example, the facilitator can pray as the imam / beside / or he doesn’t pray but stays beside the muallaf reciting Surah al-Fatihah loudly so that the muallaf can follow and repeat it. Furthermore, the muallaf can also use a voice recorder or smartphone equipped with an earphone as to not disturb the other congregants.
- If he is unable to recite, memorize or follow the recitation of Surah al-Fatihah by a facilitator, then it is permissible to recite 7 verses from any of the surah in the Quran or repeat any verse of Quran. He can also combine the recitation of some of Surah al-Fatihah and some from other surahs that he memorized.
- If he can’t recite or memorize, then recite dhikr with any dhikr that he memorized. For example (سبحان الله والحمد لله ، ولا إله إلا الله ، والله أكبر ، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله)
- If he can’t recite, memorize and doesn’t know any dhikr to be recited, then he should follow anything the imam does without reciting anything. However, it is still obligatory for him to learn and study as well as memorize it properly.
Allah SWT will always consider the effort and struggle of the muallaf to learn the Quran properly. Mistakes and setbacks at the beginning of learning are normal, strive bravely and don’t make it a barrier to continue making the effort. Congratulations and continue your hard work. Wallahua’lam.